KOTA KINABALU: Sabah tourism industry players need to be outward looking in order to better capture the tourism market, said former State Minister of Tourism and Environmental Development, Datuk Seri Panglima Tham Nyip Shen.
He cited for example, tour operators in Sabah who do not understand the holiday seasons in mainland China well.
“For instance, the Harvest Festival is on May 31 and that’s not the right season for the Chinese holiday goers. For instance their national day is on the first 10 days of October, and there’s not much activities in Sabah. Hence, from an industry viewpoint we ought to adjust ourselves to make ourselves more outward-looking in drawing them to visit Sabah.
“We fixed our calendar based on what we think is right. However, If we do not take into consideration what they want, and we mismatch the holiday seasons, we are going to mismatch the whole industry.
“We need to make our tourism industry more friendly in order to make our tourists feel more welcome,” he explained.
Tham was speaking in his capacity as CEO of eBorneo.biz Sdn Bhd at the news conference organised by his company and its joint-venture partner, Shanghai Triunfo Metro Investment Management Company (Shanghai Triunfo), to highlight their ongoing undertakings to promote Sabah tourism in China via the Beach Honey pageant.
He went on to stress that much has to be done in order to better capture the emerging Chinese tourism market. He cited for example the very little info on Sabah tourism available in the Chinese language on the Internet.
“If one starts searching on the Internet on Sabah (tourism), very little info is currently available in Chinese and more miserable from the Chinese people’s point of view. Most of the materials published in the international media are about Mt Kinabalu and some about Sabah’s wildlife, but very little is available in the Chinese media,” he said.
Tham who is a former deputy chief minister acknowledged that the joint-venture between eBorneo.biz and Shanghai Triunfo was driven by the fact that traditional markets for Sabah tourism like Europe, United States of America, Australia etc were now declining, whilst China is now an emerging economy with strong purchasing power.
The official statistics from the Chinese authority reveal that the number of outbound tourists from China in 2011 was 300 million. And it is projected that by 2015, about 27 million Chinese people are expected to visit South East Asia.
“But we are not sure how many will be visiting Sabah. Hence, it is this huge potential that we would like to translate into reality with the hope that the Sabah tourism industry will be ready to take up some of these tourists.
“Hence, this is where the Beach Honey pageantry and its official website could play a significant role in helping to promote Sabah in China,” he said.
The Beach Honey is the right platform to help promote Sabah tourism in China as it has a huge following there. Its previous programme filmed in Peninsular Malaysia has had 100 million hits on its website.
“For this Sabah special programme, a team of some 50 people with 15 models will visit several tourists spots in Sabah like the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park in Kota Kinabalu, and the Tun Sakaran Marine Park in Semporna. They also plan to film a sea Bajau wedding involving the Beach Honey pageants and this will be shown in China later, expected to be in mid April. We anticipate this programme to go viral within a month with at least 50 – 100 million hits on its official website.
“We want to bring the message to China that Sabah has clean and beautiful beaches with nice weather and friendly people. Furthermore, China is only three hours away from KK and we have direct links, and food and language are not a problem and we also have enough facility to cater for them.
“We are happy that the State government has given us a lot of encouragement and support in this aspect. We envisage a rejuvenation of the tourism industry in the near future when the Chinese tourists come in a big way after this,” he said.
Meanwhile, in her briefing, Shanghai Triunfo CEO Miss Li Ling expressed confidence that if sufficient effort were put in, Sabah would emerge as the new favourite holiday destination for the mainland Chinese. The news conference was followed by a photography session cum catwalk by the group of bikini-clad Beach Honey models at the poolside.