Tourist arrivals in Sabah last year rose by 13.6 per cent to 2.84 million compared to 2010, said State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun yesterday. He said the figure not only exceeded Sabah Tourism Board’s (STB) arrival projection of 2.63 million, but also achieved its 2012 projection of 2.75 million.
According to him, the industry contributed an estimated RM4.98 billion, proving the importance of air accessibility for the industry.
“It was an unpredictable year-end with the flight issues. However, I am pleased to say that Sabah recorded double-digit growth every month since March last year.
“This consistency of growth shows the strong demand of visitors coming to our state either for leisure or business with 96 per cent arriving by air,” he said in a statement here.
Masidi said the strong markets that contributed to the figure were China (including Hong Kong) which grew by 37.6 per cent, Australia (33.3 per cent) and Japan (18.4 per cent), despite the recent Japan tsunami crisis.
Domestic tourists recorded the highest number of visitors with 1.99 million or an increase of 17 per cent compared to 2010, he added.
Meanwhile, Masidi remained optimistic for this year, despite being a challenging one with Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) recent route rationalisation.
“The rationalisation will especially affect the Japan and Western Australia markets.
“There are now no direct flights between Sabah and Japan, while for Australia, Sabah Tourism Board is working hard with other airlines to continue offering Sabah holiday packages,” he said.
He said MAS should have continued to develop the Kota Kinabalu-Perth route as there was very strong growth at 33.3 per cent of Australian arrivals in Sabah last year.
“I am sure the route would have eventually been very profitable for MAS in a relatively short period of time,” he added.
This year, Masidi said, the state government is targeting regional and domestic markets and would be working closely with local industry players to improve the product quality as well as introducing attractive holiday packages during the low season.
“We are also looking into collaborating with three-star and four-star hotels to offer affordable holiday packages during non-peak season to achieve the 2012 projection of 2.93 million visitors.