KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah tourism sector is set to create a new record this year as the influx of tourists continue to soar, probably hitting the 3.7 million mark surpassing the targeted 3.55 million.
“In a few weeks (Dec 20), Batik Air (Indonesia) will commence Jakarta-Kota Kinabalu sector, making it the 14th international airline to be served by Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA),” said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.
“In the first quarter next year, Kota Kinabalu will be connected to Chengdu, Changsha and Tianjin that used to be charter flights now coming in as scheduled flights,” Masidi disclosed during the bi-annual 11th Sabah Tourism Awards 2017 at a resort here on Saturday.
He also shared that Consul-General of China in Kota Kinabalu Liang Caide is working to mount a scheduled flight from Beijing to Kota Kinabalu either by this month or early next year.
“This is good news for us because the Chinese government is making the arrangement for us and it will be operated by Xiamen Airlines.
“I take this opportunity to thank the Consul-General of China in Kota Kinabalu for giving us the cooperation to bring in more Chinese tourists to Sabah.
“This is another challenge as we are fast running out of hotel rooms; so my message to investors is please facilitate in building 4-5 star hotels because there is a real need for it,” said Masidi.
Up to Oct this year, he said KKIA has welcomed 190 chartered flights from China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan making it the second busiest after Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
KKIA is serving 171 international and 410 domestic flights weekly, connected to 16 international destinations via 13 foreign airlines. China and South Korea are the busiest routes with 84 and 35 flights respective per week, he said.
“Cruise season have started. Last week over 3,000 passengers from the European cruise arrived at our port in Kota Kinabalu.
“We are expecting three more cruises by year-end or at least l0,000 more arrivals from all over the world,” said Masidi.
“We will not stop there. When the Sabah International Convention Centre is completed in 2018, the business events industry in Sabah will progress dramatically as the centre had 5,000 seating capacity,” said Masidi.
As of Sept this year, he said Sabah had received closed to 30,000 MICE arrivals generating a revenue of some RM78 million, reflected the readiness of Sabah to stage large scale events and for this, the Sabah Tourism Board will set up MICE section next year.
“By 2020, business events are expected to contribute RM3.9 billion in gross national income for Malaysia or 2.9 million extra business events visitors. Sabah will have a share of the market by next year,” Masidi revealed.
He said 2016 was regarded as an outstanding year for Sabah tourism chalking up 3.427 million arrivals eclipsed the 2013 results, dubbed as ‘best year in tourism’.
“We are expecting better results this year as up to Oct this year, the arrivals went up by 11.8 per cent to 2,929,181 million compared to the same period of last year, he said.
From Jan to Oct, he said Sabah recorded an increase of 7.67 per cent to 1,004,354 international arrivals compared to last year.
Domestic arrivals went up by 10.5 percent to 2,011,258 so far. The tourism receipts have been estimated at RM6.396 billion, a robust nine per cent growth compared to the same period last year, he said.
“We commend the industry’s leaders in service excellence and recognise those that are raising the bar in terms of enhancing visitor experiences.
“The award is a tangible symbol of recognition for your accomplishment. It is a competitive world and we need to be on the move all the time, not be complacent,” Masidi said.
He said quality service culture is essential to sustain and drive the industry. “We need to inculcate the service oriented community. I hope to see this become a reality in years to come,” he said.
Meanwhile, Masidi said next year the industry will emphasis on rural tourism as Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Haji Aman has set aside a fund in the State 2018 Budget to promote that sector.
“We have achieved a good level in the urban areas and now we want to introduce the rural areas to visitors to allow Sabahans in the interior to have a share in the spillover we are enjoying now.
“We have the foreign market for the rural tourism,” he said.
The highlight of the evening was the presentations of the Minister’s Special Awards which respectively went to Sipadan-Mabul Resort chief executive officer Robert Lo and Kadamaian Tourism Association chairman Walter Duis Kandayon who received on behalf of their members.
“These rural folks at Kadamaian are an exemplary group that fully embraced digital marketing to promote their destination.
“There is no escaping the digital era. Even tonight (Saturday), the event can be seen live by our partners overseas and on your phones. This is possible with just a fraction of the cost compared to broadcasting in the past,” Masidi said.
Lo is also the founder and president of Miss Scuba International and he was recognised for his efforts in using the beauty pageant to raise the awareness on the threat of ocean pollution to our planet.
Source: New Sabah Times