Safety, security always a concern — BIMP-EAGA tourism officials

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/24 October) – Safety and security are always a concern for tourism industry stakeholders, tourism officials from the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines-East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) said in a meeting here early this week.

Datu Ik Pahon Anak Joyik, 11th BIMP-EAGA Joint Tourism Development Cluster chairman, said tourists should be security-conscious every time they tour to places.

Joyik was reacting to a question on how to promote tourism in Malaysia with the recent kidnapping incidents perpetrated by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in some areas of Sabah.

At least two Malaysians, a policeman and a fish broker, were seized a few months ago by gunmen in an island resort in Sabah are still being held hostage by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu.

Sabah, a region north of Borneo, is being claimed by the Philippines as part of its territory since it historically belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu.

“Of course, everywhere we go the issue of safety and security is always there. So we as tourists should also take precaution. Don’t take things for granted,” said Joyik, who also headed of the delegates from Malaysian during the 11th BIMP-EAGA Joint Tourism Development Meeting held on Monday and Tuesday.

He said it is the role of the tourism sector stakeholders to explain to the tourists that the peace and order condition of a particular place “is not that bad” citing “tourism is seeing and believing.”

Arturo Boncato Jr., Department of Tourism (DOT) Assistant Secretary for Mindanao and head of the Philippine delegation to the two-day event, echoed Joyik’s advice citing the issues of safety and security could be addressed by “pursuing the culture of tourism.”

“We in the Department really believe that by pursuing culture of tourism and implementing it and engaging the communities, we will be able to confront the issues of safety and security,” Boncato said.

“We as a community, when strengthened and in the true essence of tourism, we will be able to protect them (tourists) while they visit us,” he said.

“In the process, we create an environment where people can earn and when people earn, they become happier,” he added.

Delegations from Brunei headed by Noraini Haji Tersad and from Indonesia led by Azwir Malaon also attended the two-day event.

The cluster meeting aimed to enhance collaboration and cooperation among the EAGA tourism ministries, stakeholders, industry players, and local government units to ensure a more cohesive approach in marketing and promoting priority tourism destinations.

EAGA offers diverse land-and water-based tourist attractions that can parallel the world’s best and also boasts of some of the best dive spots in the world.

Tourist activities include diving, snorkeling, trekking, mountain climbing, game fishing and other adventure sports.

The BIMP-EAGA Joint Tourism Development Cluster said the subregion’s vast and relatively unspoiled natural resources, diverse cultures, and the rich biodiversity found in its forests and marine areas are just a few of the reasons why EAGA is being marketed as a “dream destination.” (MindaNews)