SMB: Tell us about yourself
WB: I was born in Kampung Kitobu, Inanam, Kota Kinabalu. My wife is from Keningau and we have three sons.
I completed my early education at the Native Voluntary English School After finishing primary six, I went to Shan Tao High School in Likas. Upon graduating from high school, I started working with the Government in 1983 in the state establishment office (now known as the Public Service Department). I pursued my Bachelor’s Degree of Corporate Administration from ITM off-campus.
In 1998, I was posted to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah as an Administration Officer (AO). I was then appointed as the Deputy Permanent Secretary in 2001. In 2015, I was transferred to Sabah Wildlife Department and subsequently I was transferred to Sabah Cultural Board on 1st September 2016. Earlier this year, I assumed the Permanent Secretary post on 4 January 2019.
Did you know?
Since joining the Ministry in 1998, William Baya worked under three Ministers.
- YB Tan Sri Datuk Chong Kah Kiat
- YB Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun
- YB Datuk Christina Liew
and six Permanent Secretaries
- Y Bhg Datuk Monica Chia
- Y Bhg Datuk Suzannah Liaw
- Y Bhg Datuk Michael Emban
- Y Bhg Datuk Ginun Yangus
- Y Bhg Datuk Datu Rusmadi Datu Sulai
SMB: What are the biggest assets that you believe Sabah has?
WB: We are blessed with beautiful nature like the world renowned Heritage Site the Mount Kinabalu. I have always liked the mountain and I have climbed it twice. I intend to climb one more time before I retire. Apart from that, one of our assets are also top diving sites in Sabah, flora and fauna, wildlife as well as our culture.
SMB: What are your ideas to attract tourists to visit Sabah?
WB: We are promoting sabah as nature-based tourism. Therefore, we have to capitalise the things that we have. The idea is the need to maintain our facilities and most importantly, the front liners are playing a big role to show our world-class friendliness and services.
SMB: How important are marketing efforts in the context of developing the tourism sector?
WB: Of course it is important because that is the way you sell Sabah to the world! We must have suitable people to handle and lead the marketing team, especially when given a task to execute overseas assignment.
SMB: Which tourism sector should we highlight more?
WB: Honestly speaking, they are all equally important. We cannot sideline any of these sectors.
SMB: Do you see ecotourism as having potential for Sabah?
WB: Definitely! We are marketing and promoting Sabah as an ecotourism destination.
SMB: How can we continue to promote sustainable tourism in Sabah?
WB: Investors might have new creative ideas and they can always introduce new products which I believe will certainly add value to the tourism industry. However, we must make sure that development and changes is within our environmental policy and guidelines.
SMB: How important is it to preserve the cultural identity?
WB: It is very important because that is where we belong – where our roots are. If we don’t preserve our culture, then we will be wiped out. You wouldn’t want Sabah to lose a part of its unique language, dances, songs, music, costumes, and customs that cannot be found elsewhere. We have to educate our younger generation to preserve our Sabah culture.
Culture is an important component of tourism because it is very attractive. We are a multicultural ethnic state filled with various cultural dances, costumes, musical instrument, food, traditional sports, and more. These definitely contribute to the overall tourism revenue.
SMB: What are your biggest challenges in your role as SUT?
WB: In the ministry, there are three big components – tourism, culture, and environment, and we have six agencies under the ministry. These important components are not easy; for instance handling environmental and wildlife issues can be quite challenging. The Ministry needs to oversee all aspects which includes designing new policies, or to revise old policies, so that we can serve better.
SMB: Where would you like to see Sabah’s tourism sector in five or 10 years?
WB: We hope that the tourism will be the revenue earner for the state because we have all the tourism resources and attractions. In order to do so, we must conserve, practice sustainable tourism, protect the heritage and have a balance between conservation and development.
Favourite quote: Live life to the fullest
Favourite music: Commercial Songs, Rock, Ballad, any music
Favourite food: Local dishes – Sup Terjun. Simple food, less oil, and organic vegetables.
Role model: Nelson Mandela. He’s a man of principle!
Favourite football team: Liverpool
Best experience in the tourism industry: Knowing new friends and places in the industry
Challenges in the tourism industry: Achieving KPIs
Do you like music or do you play any musical instruments? I used to be a lead guitarist.