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Malaysia 2016 | SABAH | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdul Razak Egoh, CEO of Ascot Academy, on building human resources in hospitality to meet growing demand in the Sabah tourism sector.

Abdul Razak Egoh
BIOGRAPHY
Abdul Razak Egoh graduated from Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, England with a BSc degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. He began his professional career in the hospitality industry as Room Division personnel with the Mandarin Oriental Group in Kuala Lumpur. After 10 years in the hospitality industry, he set up a specialized hospitality consultant company, which led to his present position as Chief Executive Officer of Ascot Academy. He is also a Director with Karamunsing Hotel Sdn Bhd, a Sabahan based hospitality Management Company and serves as a Board Member in the Sabah Tourism Board an official government linked agency of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah.

What is the advantage of having the academy located here in Sabah?

In Sabah, tourism is one of the highest growth industries and the largest industry, responsible for approximately more than 82,000 jobs and the third largest economic contributor to the state, where in 2014 a total of MYR6.328 billion in of tourism receipts were achieved. The general public and in particular the Sabahan youths are aware of the employment possibilities and opportunities that this industry has to offer both presently and in the coming years; therefore, a hospitality institute present the perfect vehicle for these potentials hoteliers to realize their ambitions. Second, Sabah is hugely attractive as a destination, not only domestically, but also internationally. This is true for business, leisure, and other activities. This boosts the potential and expanded target market for the future operations of the Academy.

How are you working with the government to promote the development of human capital in the hospitality industry?

As an accredited skills institute that specializes in Hospitality and Tourism training in Sabah, Ascot Academy has been and is currently working with various government ministries, agencies, and government linked companies. Cooperation between the government and the private sector is an essential component to raise the standards of our human capital development as well as positively providing feedback for future policy decision-making and implementation. One of the example of public and private cooperation that Ascot is involved with is the Malaysian Centre for Tourism & Hospitality Education (MyCenThe), under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department through the Performance Management Delivery Unit or PEMANDU and has been introduced to refine the current talents of Malaysian hospitality and tourism players by offering recognized qualifications that has both the academic and skills requirements. Our most recent cooperation with the government is the Academy's involvement with the State's Tourism Cluster. This program is jointly headed by the Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA) and Institute Development Studies (Sabah). The development of human capital for the tourism and hospitality industry in Sabah is one of its top priorities. Participants of this cluster which includes hospitality and tourism organizations, associations, education, and training institute identify the current and future challenges of the industry, brainstorming workable and measurable solutions and the best practice to execute these collectively agreed resolution

What is your outlook for tourism in Sabah and Malaysia for the year ahead?

The outlook for tourism in Sabah, Malaysia, and regionally remains optimistic. For Sabah specifically, our strategies in attracting existing and new visitors to the state continues to be a top priority. Last year's unfortunate incidents have been very challenging for the industry and fortunately the State Tourism Ministry through its agency; the Sabah Tourism Board was quick to response and implement rapid contingencies to tackle the shortcomings. Strategies such as restoring travelers' confidence, focus on domestic marketing, greater emphasis on other existing international markets, and exploring new potential markets have all proved to be worthwhile approaches as evident in the overall tourism receipt generated in 2014. Sabah has excellent tourist landmarks such the recognized World Heritage Site of Mount Kinabalu, the oldest rainforest in the world at Maliau Basin, and one of the top three diving spots in the globe at Sipadan. Attractive and unique tourist spots are what drives a traveller to a particular destination but it is the services rendered by the locals that makes the experience a memorable one, which will result in repeated visits. Sabahans are naturally friendly, warm and humble; so we are already halfway there, we just need to enhance their professionalism and skills. And it is this enhancement that will determine the positive long-term sustainability of Sabah and Malaysia's tourism outlook.