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The future is still bright for Sabah’s tourism industry

20th June, 2016

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah tourism industry is set to march into a brighter future after enduring two challenging years as statistics now show positive signals for the next six to nine months.

Sabah Association of Tour & Travel Agents (SATTA) chairman Dato Seri Winston Liaw said based on statistics, in the first quarter of this year tourist arrivals to Sabah have increased by 5.24 per cent compared to the same period of last year. The international arrivals made up 50.41 per cent of the visitors.

The steady increase was contributed to by the China market with 60.3 per cent, Taiwan with 8.31 per cent, South Korea with 33.9 per cent, Australia with 60.8 per cent, Germany 75.7 per cent and the rest of Europe saw 14.19 per cent, he disclosed during the SATTA bi-annual dinner cum launching of their inaugural SATTA Almanac 2016 by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun on Saturday.

However, there was a slight drop in arrivals from the United Kingdom as well as the United States and Canada which declined by 60.75 per cent affected by the travel advisory issued by the US government, he said.

Looking forward, he said starting from July to August this year, all the 4 to 5 star hotels rooms are fully booked which shows the tourists are beginning to return.

Despite the positive sign, Liaw is also concerned that the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) will implement a new policy to limit the chartwe flight services per destinations to only three months per year. “I just received news that the CAAC is mulling the idea of introducing a new policy, and if they implement it I think it will affect our plans to mount regular charter or series of flights from China to Sabah because we cannot fly continuously,” said Liaw.

“I urged the CAAC to not implement the policy because it will restrict us to flying only three months per year, and also creates a more hectic schedule for charter flights as everybody will select to fly from June to August, thus creating congestions at the airport,” Liaw explained.

“I hope my plea will be taken into consideration by the CAAC and I hope they will consider deferring this new policy,” added Liaw.

On another issue, he said he has urged Sabah Tourism to put up bilingual notices in languages such as Mandarin and English or Bahasa Malaysia at tourist sites to warn visitors off disturbing the flora and fauna.

“We need to preserve our natural resources and I would like to propose that Sabah Tourism impose fines on the tourists or visitors who are caught disturbing, for instance, the marine life, as their misbehaviour could kill or destroy these creatures,” said Liaw in referring to the many complaints that tourists who are holidaying in Sabah had disregarded respect for the state natural resources during their tours.

He believes the fine could serve as awareness to visitors on the importance of preserving our natural resources. Other than that, Liaw said he had also held a meeting with the Penampang Kadazan Culture a fortnight ago to discuss ways of promoting Kadazan culture as a tourism product.

“All this while, we have been promoting the islands, fresh seafood, Kudat, Klias and Kuala Penyu but overlooked Penampang which is so near to us yet in some way still so far,” said Liaw.

He suggested that industry players promote Penampang which is rich in history and culture; with places such as St Michael’s Church, Donggongon bazaar ground, the Datuk Peter Mojuntin statue and many more as well as the greenery of paddy fields.

Besides that, Liaw said he will also look into the potential of mounting charter flight services between Surabaya and Sabah.

During the dinner, Liaw also invited some taiji masters to perform for the audience to promote a healthy lifestyle after a hard day’s work at the office.

“Since taiji is of Chinese culture, perhaps one day we can promote it in Sabah like the dragon boat race as one of the tourism calendar event. We can organise an annual taiji event in Sabah to attract enthusiasts from all over the world,” suggested Liaw.

Free lessons are available daily from 6.30AM at the Taman Ujana Rimba, off Penampang road mile 21/2.

On the SATTA Almanac, Liaw said the idea came about after he discovered the absence of tourism books – in Chinese with English translations – on the local market that highlight the state’s attractions, local successful business personalities, and food, among others.

Meanwhile, local developer Datuk Susan Wong who is the managing director of WSG Group has been appointed as SATTA Tourism Goodwill Ambassador as recognition of her strong support in promoting the tourism industry in the state, while Kinsabina Group chief executive officer Datuk Francis Goh was appointed as SATTA honorary president.

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