KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s tourism industry had its best year ever in 2016, achieving record tourist arrivals and tourism receipts despite headwinds, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.
He said Sabah received an all-time high of 3.43 million tourist arrivals and estimated RM7.25 billion for the state economy.
“International visitors alone saw a 15.4 per cent increase, with China visitors as the largest contributor, recording a 51.8 per cent increase compared to the year before. Australia despite having only one direct flight a week from Perth, saw an increase of 8.7 per cent.
“Over the period from July to September this year, I was informed that we are expecting to receive four charter flights flying from Incheon, Korea and one charter flight from Tokyo, Japan.
“This will contribute an additional 25,637 seats to the current numbers. Apart from charter flights, for the same period, China Southern Airlines is adding their frequency from two times to three times a week. Malindo Air is also adding their frequency from four flights a week to daily flights flying from Taiwan for the winter schedule,” he said.
Masidi said this in his speech during the launching of Sabah Rural Tourism Roadshow at Imago Shopping Mall yesterday, adding that Sabah’s previous best was in 2013, with over 3.38 million arrivals.
“Certainly our best products are the attractions on coastal areas as well as the preserved landscapes located in the interior. I do hope that this roadsow will give us all more ideas on the many untapped new attractions that are available around Sabah.
“We should consider this as an opening of new fresh markets for domestic and foreign tourists,” he added.
In tandem with the positive growth in Sabah’s tourism industry, where tourists are searching for new tourism products, Masidi said Sabah Tourism took the initiative to create an event where rural tourism products owners could engage with the tourism industry players as well as the public at large to showcase the availability of rural tourism products.
“Since 2014, Sabah Tourism Board has put tremendous effort on the rural tourism initiative in each district in Sabah.
“Two years later, in 2016, this resulted in areas such as Kadamaian, Kiulu, Tambunan, Kota Marudu and Keningau emerging as the major contributors to rural tourism growth in the state.
“This meeting point is very crucial to direct supply, sell and promote those products to consumers or buyers,” he added.
On 25th May, Sabah Tourism Board (STB) through its product division, organized a one-day workshop for 26 Sabah district officers which focused on activating each respective district tourism council and actively develop district or rural tourism.
Following to the workshop, STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai mooted the idea to reach out to the general public by holding a Sabah Rural Roadshow.
Yesterday, the roadshow was launched.
“This roadshow is very crucial as a mechanism for product owners to further promote their tourism products and an opportunity to partner with our operators.
“This first ever rural tourism roadshow aims to showcase rural-based tourism based products from around Sabah to the tourism industry players and the public at large.
“It also aims to leverage the expertise and know-how of the industry in packaging and promoting rural tourism experience to the domestic and international markets,” he said.
During the event yesterday, 50 new products were showcased, where some of the products were ready to receive visitors and many were still in the development stages.