KOTA KINABALU 19 February 2021: Recognised as a pioneer of Sabah tourism, Datuk Irene Benggon haruruks, 70, died Monday following a brief illness.
The Sabah Tourism Board said she would be remembered for her vision that turned the state into a renowned national and international tourism destination.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of our former GM, Datuk Irene BenggonCharuruks, as she was not only my boss but was like a mother,” Sabah Tourism Board general manager Noredah Othman said in a statement to TTR Weekly. “She devoted 25 years of her career as the general manager of Sabah Tourism Board before retiring in 2016.
“A driving force and matriarch for us, she not only believed that Sabah had what it would take to be a great destination, but she made everyone she met believe the same.
“She nurtured the tourism industry from birth to adulthood and was instrumental in the development of key events in the state, cultural appreciation, air accessibility development and more.
Events such as the Sabah Fest, Regatta Lepa, TamuBesar Kota Belud, Sandakan Memorial Day and Borneo Bird Festival to name some, were credited to her initiatives.
“She was very proud of her Malaysian and cultural heritage and made sure we all wore our ‘baju kurung’ for overseas travel promotions because she said that was our country’s identity.
“Hence STB made many different types of batik with Sabah motifs to be worn proudly at travel shows. Datuk Irene made sure that we all respected and appreciated our respective culture, religion and beliefs.
“Her passion and commitment went beyond words and accolades. She established a good relationship with foreign ambassadors, especially from the UK, Australia, USA and foreign consulates resident in Sabah.
“Most people called her the ‘Iron Lady of Tourism’, but for all of us working at STB, she was a combination of a boss, mother, aunt, friend and most of all our pillar strength.
A driving force for good long after retirement, her dedication will be remembered and will continue to inspire us for years to come.”
She is survived by her husband SeveeCharuruks and children Devi, Rani and Zuhun.
(Source: Sabah Tourism Board)