THE tourism sector is expected to remain challenging this year due to the continuing unfavourable global economy and domestic incidents that took place in 2014.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said Sabah recorded a drop of 3.7 per cent in tourist arrivals last year and it was very likely the state would have only marginal growth this year.
“We do not expect to do overwhelmingly well given the global situation. We might have some improvement but it will be a very small growth,” he told the State Assembly in his winding up speech yesterday.
Masidi also attributed his assessment to the trend among the Chinese tourists, who are now opting to spend their holidays in new destinations further away from their country.
The Chinese traditionally make the bulk of Sabah tourist arrivals and receipts.
“This 2015 is the time for the tourism sector to rebuild itself, to recover and do better than last year. The state government will strengthen its promotional efforts in long distance markets and reassess its strategy for domestic market, apart from continuing focus on markets that have shown good performance last year,” said Masidi.
In 2014, Sabah was visited by a total of 3.065 million international and domestic tourists, as compared to over 3.181 million in the previous year.
The domestic segment, which accounted for the majority of the tourists, dropped by 2.6 per cent while the international segment plummeted by 6.4 per cent.
A total of RM6.328 billion in tourist receipts was recorded last year.
Masidi said the government recognized that tourism was a private-driven sector and would continue to encourage and work with private companies to promote and develop the industry.
Touching on issues brought up throughout the sitting, which was held since Monday, he said the ministry welcomed the proposal to incorporate tourism-related activities in the development of Sipitang Oil and Gas Industrial Park (SOGIP).
He said suggestion to build an international golf course at SOGIP should be looked into, to identify possible issues that could arise, including those related to land acquisition.
Ensuring his ministry would assist in marketing and promoting the golf course should the idea materialise, he said the facility could be developed as a sport-tourism product that would attract, among others, professional expatriates working in the oil and gas sector.
In regard to problems on pig farms operating too close to residential areas raised by the Bongawan assemblyman, Masidi said pig farming was licensed under the Department of Veterinary Services and Animal Industry (DOVSAI) and did not require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.
However, he said the ministry had taken note of the issue and would investigate if there was any activity damaging to natural environment, a matter which fell within its jurisdiction.
On concerns regarding the Tawau Green Energy (TGE) and the controversial shrimp farming in Pitas, he said the government was monitoring both projects closely to ensure there was no breach of laws and regulations in relation to protection and conservation of the environment.
On issues of education, Masidi who is also the state education exco, said he understood that some elected representatives seemed disappointed as they thought he was reluctant to answer the questions they had brought up.
Masidi said he had advised the elected representatives to direct their questions directly to the minister concerned at the federal not because he wanted to avoid his duty but he wanted to make things easier and issues answered faster.
“I am the education exco, but an exco be it in Sabah or other states in Semenanjung, does not have the executive power as the jurisdiction on education is with the federal ministry. I can only forward the questions asked.
“We have MPs, let’s make use of them to raise education issues in parliament where matters on education can be decided. Let’s make things simple,” he said.
He said the state government had always been voicing out concerns and needs in regard to educational infrastructure in Sabah.