News & Updates

Sabah tourist arrivals up 13.6 pct in 2011 to 2.84 million

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.

Source: Bernama

Numerous stories, pix depicting the olden days of Gaya Street

Numerous stories and photos depicting the olden days of Gaya Street have been collected for the community heritage exhibition, “Bonding With Gaya Street”, in conjunction with the City Day celebration.

The exhibition is organised by the North Borneo History Enthusiasts (NBHE) in collaboration with City Hall, with support from the Sabah Tourism Board, Information Department, Sabah Museum, Sabah Archives Department and the Daily Express, among others.

These old nostalgic photographs and collection of stories will be on display at different parts of Gaya Street on Feb 11 and Feb 12 during the event.

Tina Kinsil, of NBHE, shared some of the stories and experiences which they gathered from the community.

“A customer was having his lunch at Kedai Kopi Sen Chong Wah (where the NBHE collection booth is set up), when he noticed a photo of his father, Justin Abiu, featured in one of the photos pasted on the stories collection booth.

“He was so excited that the next day he took the whole family – father, mother, brother, sister and children – to take a look at the photo,” said Tina.

According to Abiu, they were called “Delivery Postmen” and issued with bicycles by the Government to deliver mail to the shops (not houses) from 1968 to 1970, adding that no delivery was made when it rained.

Another story is about Ah Pui who has been working and living in Gaya Street for the past 47 years and happened to be at the Syarikat Eng Leong shop in Gaya Street when the NBHE research team dropped by.

“Call me Ah Pui as in ‘pui’, like the sound you make when you spit,” said the 82-year-old, Sino-Dusun.

According to Tina, Ah Pui is originally from Kota Belud and it took him a day’s walk to Tenghilan from Kota Belud where he stayed overnight at a police station before proceeding the next day to Jesselton in search of work.

He arrived in what he refers to as Api-Api or Jesselton in 1964 and his first impression of Jesselton was a town with three neat rows of low-rise shop houses.

A Dusun policeman took pity on him and let him stay at the police station, which, according to Ah Pui, was not unusual for those coming from the villages to use as overnight accommodation during that time.

Since then, he has been living in Kota Kinabalu for the past 47 years where home to him is the workshop behind Mee Kwong Wing Kee Enterprise Sdn Bhd, glass, mirror and frame makers located at No. 15 Gaya Street.

According to Ah Pui, what he remembered most about his life was his experience during the Japanese Occupation in North Borneo.

He was 14 year old when the Japanese arrived in Kg Tombolian where he was living and he recalls the Japanese soldiers having Taiwanese origins.

“They were unlike the Kempeitais who were Japanese and had bayonets so long it reached up to their necks,” he said, recalling how he heard the Kempeitais speaking in Malay to the villagers.

“The soldiers liked to swim in the river and often asked me to join them for a swim,” he said, adding that many villagers at that time had very little to eat and so did the soldiers.

“They stole chickens from the villagers and asked them to cook it with sweet potato leaves.

I used to carry water for them from the river to be used to clean the chicken, which earned me a few sticks of cigarettes,” he said.

Running errands for the soldiers meant there was food and clothing for Ah Pui and, of course, cigarettes from the packets that had pictures of a horse, bicycle or the rising sun Japanese symbol.

Ah Pui and the other villagers had to learn the Japanese language which was taught by a Shanghainese, and during the Occupation, villagers had a difficult choice of whether to obey the Japanese or risk losing their lives or starve.

Later, he left Kg Tombolion for Kota Belud where he found work planting groundnuts and cutting grass, recalling seeing leaflets that had distinct red edges being dropped from airplanes by the Allied forces.

He stayed in Kota Belud and later Tuaran for some time until that fateful day-long trek to Jesselton in 1964 in search of a better life.

Source: Daily Express

Sabah: Partnering neighbours in air travel

The New Year has started out on a turbulent note for Sabah’s air transportation sector, with some fearing that recent developments may spell hard times ahead for investment in the state and its tourism sector. Yet a possible partnership with neighbouring Brunei Darussalam’s national carrier may hold a solution to Sabah’s air travel troubles.

Difficulties began when national carrier Malaysia Airline System Bhd (MAS) announced the cancellation of a number of flights to and from the East Malaysian state. On the chopping block are flights from Kota Kinabalu to Osaka, Perth, Tokyo and Seoul. These cuts accounted for more than 16 million available seat kilometres (ASKs), or almost 70 per cent of MAS’s international capacity at Kota Kinabalu Airport.

In December 2011, MAS unveiled a new business plan to reduce system-wide ASKs by 12 per cent. The capacity reductions were designed to improve the airline’s bottom line by RM 220 million (US$70.69 million) to RM 302 million (US$97.04 million) by the end of 2012.

In the first nine months of 2011, MAS reported a net loss of RM1.24 billion (US$398.44 million) compared with a net profit of RM8.55 million (US$2.75 million) recorded a year earlier. Its cash and cash equivalent fell to RM968.5 million (US$311.19 million) during the same period, compared with RM1.92 billion (US$616.93 million) in 2010.

In anticipation of this, MAS and low-cost airline AirAsia agreed to a landmark share swap and cooperation deal in August 2011, with MAS subsequently focusing more on the premium end of the air travel market. Under the deal, Tune Air – AirAsia’s major shareholder – now holds a 20.5 per cent stake in MAS, and MAS major shareholder, Khazanah Nasional, now holds a 10 per cent stake in AirAsia.

As MAS reduces its presence in the region, AirAsia’s market share in Kota Kinabalu is thus expected to increase. Kota Kinabalu is AirAsia’s second-largest Malaysian base, but it currently does not serve any of the four discontinued MAS routes, though it is expected to revive some of them.

AirAsia is already the largest carrier at Kota Kinabalu Airport, with a total capacity of 52 per cent. Its domestic and international capacity shares are 54 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively.

Many of Sabah’s politicians and tourism operators have voiced their concerns regarding the national airline’s decision, accusing it of crippling business and investment. Additional concerns had been raised that the absence of competition resulting from the MAS-AirAsia swap would result in more expensive airfares for locals.

Indeed, local media reported that opposition Sabah Progressive People’s Party (SAPP) president, Datuk Seri Panglima Yong Teck Lee, a former Sabah chief minister, had even described the share-swap as a form of ‘collusion’ between the two corporations and warned against a ‘monopoly’ of the nation’s air-travel industry.

The high degree of concern is partly explained by Borneo’s isolated geography and difficult terrain, which makes air travel the easiest – and sometimes the only – way to get on, off and around the island.

The controversy continued when Sabah Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) chief Datuk Edward Khoo, who is also the assistant minister to the chief minister, told reporters in January he thought MAS should rethink its business plan in Sabah.

“Being a national airline, you have such a thing called social responsibility,” he said, “especially to Sabah and Sarawak, because you are also responsible to help promote the integration of Peninsular and East Malaysia.”

He added that MAS also has a responsibility to promote business and tourism in Sabah and Sarawak, and that if it was abandoning this responsibility, perhaps it was time to open up Sabah to other airlines on international and domestic routes.

Stepping into the fray, Sabah Air Aviation (Sabah Air) announced it was seeking approval to become a full-fledged airline that would operate domestic and regional routes. However, many question whether the relatively inexperienced state-owned airline was equipped to take on such operations.

Indeed, Yong cautioned against Sabah Air starting its own carrier. “It’s too high a risk for Sabah Air to start its own airline,” Yong said. “Sabah Air is not suited as an airline to even fly within Sabah, as there are many risks and costs involved.”

According to Yong, a better alternative would be for Sabah Air to partner with an established regional airline, such as Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA). “I would feel that the first airline to talk to is RBA using Bandar Seri Begawan as a hub. RBA … want passengers coming to Sabah and Sarawak to stop over in Brunei. So it is possible that Brunei can be the hub. This is part of BIMP-EAGA,” Yong stressed, referring to the regional cooperation group.

Whether RBA is interested in partnering with Sabah Air is unknown. The Bruneian carrier has seen cut backs of its own recently, but expanding its presence within Borneo, given its aim to establish itself as a regional air centre, could be a strong incentive.

Source: Borneo Post (by Robin Carballido)

Sabah’s biggest graphic mural of historical Clock Tower

The newly-opened Hotel Sixty3 at Gaya Street here will be unveiling Sabah’s biggest graphic mural of the Atkinson Clock Tower for a two-day exhibition to be held in conjunction with the “Bonding with Gaya Street” event this weekend.

The 8’ x 48’ graphic mural, depicting KK city’s oldest landmark, the Atkinson Clock Tower, will be the highlight of the exhibition that will be placed in the atrium of the hotel.

The mural will be an artwork collage of various old photographs of Jesselton township combined to create an image of the clock tower. It will be the largest graphic bunting ever produced of the 107-year-old historical lock tower that has now become the most important historical marker for the city of Kota Kinabalu.

The Atkinson Clock Tower (ACT) exhibition will showcase the importance of the Atkinson Clock Tower as KK city’s historic landmark with old photos taken over the past 107 years of its existence by the past and present residents of Kota Kinabalu (then known as Jesselton).

Richard Nelson Sokial, a local heritage advocate who is assisting in curating the ACT exhibition together with Sabah Museum, praised the hotel management for its interest and support in promoting the event.

Sokial is also a member of the “Bonding with Gaya Street” organizing committee under the North Borneo History Enthusiasts (NBHE) group that is aiming to bring the local community together in rediscovering the history of KK city’s early town centered around the activities of Gaya Street — then known as Bond Street.

“The graphic mural of the Atkinson Clock Tower is a huge and generous gesture by Hotel Sixty3 in support of promoting our local history,” he said. Sokial is confident that with ongoing efforts to create awareness of the importance to preserve heritage in the city, more and more local business establishments are seeing the potential of heritage as a branding and tourism product by supporting the preservation of existing historical structures and their immediate surroundings.

Lisa Sabrina Ambrose, general manager of Hotel Sixty3, said the hotel is excited to be involved with a project that is so close to the heart of the Gaya Street community.

“We hope that this exhibition will encourage the public to learn more about the city, so that when they walk along Gaya Street they can retrace the history of Kota Kinabalu,” she said.

Formerly known as Nosmal Court, the premises of Hotel Sixty3 was renovated and completed early last year and is one of the few examples of architectural readaptation projects in Kota Kinabalu that have mostly kept the character of the original building’s modernist architecture from the early 1960s.

Apart from rare old photos and information about the Atkinson Clock Tower and heritage preservation efforts, a multimedia presentation will also be shown about the Atkinson Clock Tower as an effort by Sabah’s younger generation to preserve their local history.

In support of the Atkinson Clock Tower exhibition, Hotel Sixty3 will also display its own private collection of old photos taken during North Borneo’s colonial era along its hotel’s corridors.

The Atkinson Clock Tower exhibition will be held at the first floor atrium of Hotel Sixty3, located in front of the Sabah Tourism Corporation building on Gaya Street. It will be open from 8.30am to 6.30pm as part of the “Bonding with Gaya Street” event.

Early birds visiting the exhibition will also be able to redeem free cups of coffee sponsored by Cap Kuda Coffee Company at the first floor atrium. The coupons will be distributed along Gaya Street during the two-day event.

A coffeetable book titled “Colonial Towns in Sabah: West Coast” by PAM Sabah Chapter will also be on sale at the exhibition featuring 12 colonial townships in Sabah’s west coast.

Source: Borneo Post

Praise for bonding KK folks with city’s history

The community heritage exhibition “Bonding With Gaya Street” earned praises from Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir at its launch, here, Saturday. “This programme is connected to City Hall’s vision, which is to make Kota Kinabalu a Nature Resort City, a firmly developed city, friendly as well as peaceful by 2020.

“It also gives the younger generation an opportunity to gain an insight into the uniqueness of Gaya Street through exhibits which showcase its social history, lifestyle and culture, old buildings and shophouses, significant events and incidents, which have influenced the community along Gaya Street throughout the ages.”

“I believe visitors will have the opportunity not only to see the natural beauty of the city, but also a chance of looking into the lifestyle pattern of its community as well as gather bits and pieces of its history as they go along the exhibits,” he said at the Lintasan Deasoka in conjunction with the 12th City Day celebration.

Daily Express is a co-sponsor of the event. The first headquarters of Sabah Publishing House, the publishers of both the Daily Express and Overseas Chinese Daily News, were among the street’s pioneer establishments.

Madingkir reminded patrons and business proprietors along Gaya Street to maintain the cleanliness of the city. He also suggested repainting and renovations to be done on buildings along the street, where necessary, in order to lift the image of the city as well as ensure the buildings are safe.

Earlier, Organising Chairperson Datin Fazar Arif said the focus was on Gaya Street because it is the origins of Jesselton and Kota Kinabalu.

Thus the project is named ‘Bonding with Gaya Street’. Part of Gaya Street was also known as Bond Street in the old days.

“We are all very familiar with Gaya Street but we just don’t look around, we tend to take it for granted. So this exhibition is about slowing down and noticing the details.

“Our objective is to celebrate community and celebrate community history which goes back to the beginnings of Gaya Street as we know.”

She also credited the North Borneo History Enthusiasts (NBHE), a fairly random group of bloggers comprising Sabahans from all walks of life.

“It’s not like we’re learned academics but it’s very much based on love of history and stories as well as collecting stories and old photos from people of Gaya Street.”

She said the first shophouses were built along the area called Bond Street that would later be re-named Gaya Street. The event also saw the soft launching of the NBHE book titled “Bonding with Gaya Street”.

Also present were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr. Yee Moh Chai , City Hall Director General Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, founder of the NBHE group, Justin Sunam Wong and Madingkir’s wife Datin Florence Malangkig.

Source: Daily Express