Thank you for inviting me to once again grace ATI College’s Convocation ceremony, and I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your 20th Anniversary celebration. You have gone through ups and downs from your humble beginning as the Asian Tourism Institution and have grown into a well-established local college providing diverse fields of study not only for local youth but also for international students who wish to make Sabah their centre of learning.


To those graduating today, I congratulate you. This will be remembered as one of the proudest moments in your life. After a lot of hard work that involved long hours of studying and working on academic projects, you are finally going to receive the acknowledgement of your effort. With this academic qualification in hand, you are now ready to face the world and contribute to the development of Sabah and Malaysia through your chosen field. However, learning is a life-long experience and I encourage those who have the interest to do so to pursue further education as we need qualified experts to take the tourism industry to the next level.


The hospitality and tourism industry is a key income generating sector for Sabah. The Sabah Government will continue to strive harder to provide the best economic stimuli to boost the industry for it to remain viable for many more years to come. However, we cannot do this alone. We need not only support of the private sector but also skilled and knowledgeable workers such as those who graduate from ATI College. I urge graduates to take full advantage of opportunities that are available to you.


The State Government will continue its commitment to the hospitality and tourism sectors namely through the Development Agenda or Halatuju and by supporting federal-led initiatives such as the Sabah Development Corridor and Economic Transformation Programme. It is crucial for Sabah to stay ahead of the latest trends and needs in the tourism sector for us to remain relevant, and for Sabah to continue offering tourism products that would attract tourists, both from within Malaysia and overseas. One of the plans we are looking forward to is the Tanjung Aru Eco-Development project which will transform Tanjung Aru into one of the region's best tourism spots, with the beach and Prince Phillip Park remaining a public space. This project will also create quality jobs for our local youths.


Sabah is continuously working towards achieving its tourism strategy to increase tourist receipts. Despite the fact that Sabah is experiencing positive growth through flow of investments, enhanced economic cooperation and improved trade relation, the increase in number of hotel rooms is still insufficient to meet the ever increasing tourist arrivals into the state. The number of tourist arrivals for the first half of this year is about 1.8 million, a growth rate of 11percent as compared to the same period last year.


I am pleased to learn that your collaboration with Nilai University has materialized. There will be less necessity for Sabahans to travel to Peninsular Malaysia to pursue their tertiary education following this collaboration. They can now acquire their Bachelor and Master degrees here without having to fork out more in terms of cost or leaving their families in order to earn higher education.


I am well aware of the predicament faced by our youth especially those from rural areas. With the recent reduction of PTPTN financing to deserving students, rural youth and those from lower income families are finding it difficult to continue their pursuit of higher education. This will require the need for the government to deliberate on ways to overcome this challenge in order to assist deserving students in meeting their living allowances and accommodation expenses.


Once again, I congratulate ATI College on your 20thAnniversary celebration. For your unrelenting efforts, I commend the Board of Directors, the Board of Governors, the Management Team and all staff for playing your part. As your international recognition increases, your students and their quality will be a strong foundation for the hospitality and tourism industry both in Sabah and Malaysia.


To all graduates, congratulations on your success. Go forth and walk your pathway, take control of your lives and be successful. Thank you.