KOTA KINABALU: Tourist arrivals from China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan have increased by 87 per cent in the first nine months of this year compared to the corresponding months of last year.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun described the tourist arrivals from the countries as ‘phenomenal’, adding that it was a good indication for Sabah to be a tourism hub in this part of the world.
He believed that the arrival of guests from outside Sabah would be at all time high record at the end of this year, considering that tourist arrival to Sabah was on double digit growth from January to September this year.
Masidi said that at the inaugural cruise ceremony of SuperStar Aquarius here yesterday. The SuperStar Aquarius will travel from Kota Kinablau to international waters on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and from Kota Kinabalu –Brunei-Bintulu-Kota Kinabalu from Sunday to Wednesday. The cruise will be stationed in Kota Kinabalu from November this year till end of March next year.
Masidi said there had been lots of discussion on the need for Kota Kinabalu to be complemented with additional arrival of tourists through other transports.
“Ninety-four per cent of the visitors (to Sabah) come by air, it is important that connectivity is there to ensure the arrival of tourists.”
He said the commencement of Star Cruises operations in Kota Kinabalu would benefit Sabah and the region.
Masidi said Star Cruises had chosen the right port to commence its operations and hoped that the organisation would continue its operations here in the subsequent seasons.
He also assured the people that security was not an issue in Sabah.
“The Navy has been deployed to its full capacity to ensure everyone is safe in Sabah.”
Masidi said there were not many places in the world like Sabah, where the islands were merely 20 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu.
“The Mount Kinabalu is just 1.5 hours drive away, and as for Sipadan, many people agree that it is one of the top three diving spots in the world.”
While the islands and mountain are available in other parts of the world, Masidi said that there was nowhere in the world where 32 races could live side by side in harmony.
“We take pride in ourselves that we are the most integrated Malaysians. The best Malaysians live in Sabah, and we are proud of it.”
Meanwhile, Star Cruises chief operating officer William Ng said Star Cruises had achieved a milestone yesterday by becoming the first international cruise line to operate in Kota Kinabalu.
“This deployment denotes our commitment to make Kota Kinabalu into a cruise hub.
“We are confident that we will attract domestic, regional and international passengers to Sabah,” he said.
As an industry leader, Ng said Star Cruises endeavored to introduce new routes and create new itineraries in this region.
On the other hand, Star Cruises marketing and product development manager Vincte Lim said the SuperStar Aquarius was 85 per cent sold out for the two-day-one-night cruise up till March next year.
He said many of the passengers were locals and Asian tourists, as well as Australians since there were direct flights to Kota Kinabalu.
Lim added that the SuperStar Aquarius employs over 1,000 staff, mostly locals, as well as people from China and the Philippines.
Also present were Assistant Ministers of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Pang Yuk Ming and Datuk Kamarlin Hj Ombi, Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai and Sabah Parks Board of Trustees chairman Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahamood.