By Chris Maskilone
KOTA KINABALU: The Federal Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) has the full support of its State’s counterpart to carry out enforcement in ensuring only licensed dive companies are operating in Sabah.
Deputy Chief Minister cum Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said her Ministry has always and will continue to stress that all parties wanting to do tourism business in the State must be properly licensed.
Christina was informed that the dive operator that took the two Chinese tourists diving in Pulau Kalapuan’s waters off Semporna where they were found dead believed due to the blast from fish bombs was “in the process of applying for a tour license.”
“In this case the dive operator must have a tour license,” she said when contacted by SabahNewsToday on actions being taken by her Ministry to curb unlicensed tour operators from soliciting tourists for their services.
“But nevertheless if license has not been approved by Motac that means the company is operating illegally,” she said.
Asked on the steps being taken to create awareness among the players on the importance of being properly licensed, she said Motac and her Ministry had in fact conducted an engagement session with the operators both legal and illegal on Jan 21 this year.
Some 170 participants attended the engagement.
According to her, the session was aimed at creating awareness on the repercussions of illegal activities.
At the same time, she said the participants were informed on how to apply for the license apart from the advisory assistance available.
On whether the government has plans to do an aggresive awareness campaign especially among Chinese tourists, that they must not procure services of unlicensed tour and dive operators, Christina said:
“In all our promotions in China or any market we only work with licensed operators. The same goes to Sabah Tourism website, only fully licensed operators or premises in Sabah are listed.
“However, despite our constant reminders, we find tourists are getting solicited by these unscrupulous operators.
“Therefore, my Ministry and I, personally, will keep reiterating and demanding for stricter enforcement on illegal tour operators.”
On July 5, two Chinese tourists and their divemaster were believed to have been killed by fish bombs while diving in the water.
Although the divemaster was believed to be certified but the dive company was unlicensed.
It was reported that police have detained a boatman and a guide to facilitate investigation into the case.-SabahNewsToday