TAWAU: The Sabah tourism industry’s 2018 report card recorded its highest receipts in history at RM8.342 billion and a record-high 3.879 million arrivals.
Quoting statistics compiled by the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, its minister Datuk Christina Liew said the figures showed that the January to December overall arrivals grew by 5.3 per cent while tourism receipts increased by 6.6 per cent compared with 2017 (RM7.83 billion).
Overall gross international arrivals recorded a double-digit increase of 10.2 per cent while domestic arrivals increased by 2.8 per cent.
Liew, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, said the top market source China surpassed its half million mark when a total of 593,623 Chinese visitors came to Sabah in 2018. As of December 2018, direct flights from China into Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) had totalled up to 125 flights per week.
The second highest arrivals is still South Korea with an increase of 8.5 per cent or a total of 337,100 visitors while the Singapore market grew by 9.1 per cent last year.
“I am very pleased with our performance in 2018. It was a very good year for Sabah. As of today, we are now connected to 26 international destinations by 12 foreign carriers. We will be emphasising more on domestic tourism into Sabah since we have opened up many new areas in the interior and the East Coast for tourism,” she said in a press statement on Tuesday.
The minister noted that presently, there are 444 flights connecting Peninsula Malaysia, Sarawak and Labuan to Sabah with a seat capacity of close to 75,000 weekly.
According to Liew, last year, ten more new direct international flights commenced services to Sabah, including the reinstatement of the Kota Kinabalu-Bangkok flight by Thai AirAsia. The rest of the services connected Sabah to international cities such as Beijing, Xiamen, Fuzhou (Xiamen Air), Singapore and Wuhan (Malindo Air), Shenzhen (China Southern Airlines, AirAsia), Macau and Kunming (AirAsia) and Muan (Jeju Air). Tawau too is expanding its connectivity with a direct flight to Kuching.
“2018 was also a significant year for charter flights as Sabah airports (KKIA and Sandakan) welcomed a total of 343 non-scheduled flights compared with 215 the year before,” she said, adding the charter flights brought passengers from China, South Korea and Japan.