KOTA KINABALU: Tourists arrival in Sabah last year was a record-breaking all-time high with 2.84 million visitors, not only exceeding Sabah Tourism Board’s (STB) arrival projection of 2.64 million for 2011 but has also achieved their 2012 projection of 2.75 million visitors.
It is a 13.6 percent increase compared to 2010’s total arrival and an estimated RM4.98 billion in tourism receipts, proving the importance of air accessibility for the industry, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun announced yesterday.
Masidi congratulated the tourism players in the state for this better-than-expected result. He said this was due to the close rapport between STB and the industry players, and their hardwork.
“STB’s marketing strategies were very effective and everyone has worked on ‘overdrive’ mode to ensure success,” he said.
“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 be it for leisure or business. Ninety-six per cent of these arrivals come by air. The numbers show it all, air accessibility into Sabah is essential and the only way for the industry to grow,” added Masidi.
Strong markets indicated were from China (including Hong Kong) at 37.6% growth and Australia (33.3%). Despite the recent Japanese tsunami crisis, the Japanese market remained strong at 18.4% growth. Domestic tourists recorded the highest number of visitors of 1.99 million or an increase of 17% compared to 2010.
Recent news reported strong public opinion against the route cuts into Sabah by Malaysia Airlines affecting direct air access from Australia, Korea and Japan as well as the suspension of Malaysia Airlines low-cost carrier, Firefly.
Masidi cautioned that while he is optimistic of another good year in 2012 but it will also be a challenging year in view of MAS’ recent route rationalisation.
“The rationalization will especially affect the Japanese and Western Australia markets. There are now no direct flights between Sabah and Japan. As for Australia, STB is working hard with other airlines to continue offering Sabah holiday packages.
“I still believe that it was premature, in fact short-sightedness for MAS to cancel the KK-Perth route. It should have continued to develop the route as there was very strong growth of Australian arrival in Sabah last year, i.e 33.3 percent. I am sure the route would have eventually been very profitable for MAS in a relatively short period of time,” Masidi explained.
“This year, we are targeting regional and domestic markets and are working closely with local industry players to improve the quality of its products as well as packaging attractive holiday offers during low season.
“We are also looking into collaborating with three-star hotels to offer affordable holiday packages during non-peak season to achieve the 2012 projection of 2.93 million visitors. This means we have to do better, and be more aggressive. We are open to work with other airlines to achieve this target,” he added.