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Sandakan, where friendly people await

12th February, 2016

SANDAKAN: The former State capital of this east coast town is well-known for orangutan and sea turtles, but beneath the natural attractions there is much more than that – the friendly people.

And this was discovered by Amanson SigNature Hotel chairman Blasius Binjua upon his first arrival at the Sandakan airport way back in 1973.

“As I disembarked from the Fokker 27 which is a small 50-seater plane, there were a big crowd of people rushing to the aircraft,” recalled the former Malaysia Airlines (MAS) area manager for Sabah who is now relishing his dream of managing a hotel after working some four decades in the airline industry.

He served for three years in Sabah before being posted to Bangalore, India until he retired from the national carrier in recent years.

“And they were greeting the passengers, I was stunned and was wondering what was so special about me…That was the first time I visited Sandakan. This is where I fell in love with Sandakan and I learnt a great deal of her people then,” recalled Blasius from Penampang.

“It was my first job when I was recruited by MAS, I was very surprised and impressed by the entrepreneurship and the spirit of hospitality shown by the people of Sandakan,” he said.

“So what actually happened was a group of taxi drivers, they wanted to greet you and invite you to their taxis, they wore a friendly smile and ask you where you want to go.

“And that is the quality of the people of Sandakan, they are very touching and very friendly,” said Blasius profoundly. And to his fascination, Sandakan is also a place full of bosses and everybody seems to be the boss in town.

“When you walk into the coffee shops, people start calling me boss, but I told them I am not the boss. They knew that I work at the airport there,” he said.

“So the moral of the story, is that in the service industry, the people relationship is very important and you must treat your customers like VIP (very important people) and as I progressed in my career I practice the same thing,” he said.

After being away from Sabah particularly Sandakan for quite some time as he was serving in Bangalore, Blasius said he noticed the Sandakan folks are very creative and they seemed to have reinvented the town with more happenings.

On the business strategy of Amanson Hotel, he said they are looking at the business and leisure travellers as well as government sector.

“We will also be working closely with travel agents and tour operators who have mount direct flights to Sandakan from nearby cities from overseas,” he said.

“During my time with MAS, I have a close rapport with the hoteliers so that is how I learnt about managing hotel, so because of that influence, I told myself I should make full use of the experience to help a friend and to promote the tourism industry in Sabah after I retired,” said Blasius. – By Paul Mu

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