KOTA KINABALU: The tourism industry in Sabah is now ready to bounce back and seize new opportunities after the ugly episode of the Lahad Datu intrusion and the excitement and enthusiasm of the 13th general election.
Newly reappointed Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun said tourist arrivals to Sabah for the first quarter of this year increased by five per cent to 718,626 from 684,546 in 2012.
“It is unfortunate that the Lahad Datu incident had in many ways affected the confidence of tourists to travel to Sabah, resulting in heavy cancellations and changes to tourist travel plans. Some have suffered heavy losses due to the cancellation which was taken arising from various travel advisories advising tourists not to travel to Sabah or even Borneo.
“We are lucky that the unfortunate incident did not prolong following the active action taken by the government of Malaysia. I am very confident that the tourism industry will bounce back after the incident to even to a higher level than what we had achieved before,” he said.
Masidi also revealed that visitors from China accounted for the highest number of tourist arrivals in Sabah, with the figures in the first quarter this year showing a big increase of 79.2 per cent to 81,251 from last year’s 45,350. Chinese visitors include tourists from Hong Kong and Macau.
Korean tourists from South Korea accounted for the second highest number of arrivals at 27,665 during the period from January to March this year, which was an increase of 41.3 per cent from 19,567 last year.
Japan is third with 6,575 visitors recorded in the first three months of 2012 to 7,949 this year, recording an increase of 20.9 per cent.
Masidi also said the Europe market also showed positive growth, showing an increase of 4.3 per cent from 19,804 last year to 20,661 this year.
Masidi said this in the presence of several travel agents at the MASwings Top Agent Award 2012 Gala Dinner at Magellan Sutera Harbour on Thursday night.
As the main airline operating in Sabah and Sarawak, Masidi said MASwings plays a dominant role in shaping the future of tourism industry in the region.
He added that with its operation covering almost all major and secondary cities in Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Indonesia, it is without doubt that MASwings is the most preferred airline in the region.
“The future of tourism industry relies on travel and tour agents to work together with the airlines and other tourism players to introduce innovative products to promote Sabah to the rest of the world.
“In today’s environment, competition amongst key tourist destinations is intense and very challenging. I urge all of you to integrate your efforts and form a formidable alliance to attract more and more tourists to Borneo and in particular to Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.
During the event, Masidi handed over Platinum, Gold and Silver awards to 19 Sabah and Sarawak-based companies which made millions of Ringgit through MASwings packages.