Kota Kinabalu: Sabah recorded a 11.7 per cent increase in tourist arrivals between January and May this year.
Sabah Tourism Board Chairman Tengku Datuk Dr Zainal Adlin said a total of 768,736 tourists came in the first five months, compared to the 687,930 during the same period last year.
Speaking at a joint press conference by Malaysia Airlines and STB, Wednesday, he said Sabah being a preferred destination certainly has huge potential in grabbing a slice of the 1.6 billion tourism traffic worldwide by 2020.
"Of the figure released by World Trade Organisation (WTO), 25 per cent is in the East Asia Pacific region which will generate US$500 billion worth from tourism alone," he said.
He said there has also been a phenomenal growth in Japanese tourist arrivals in 2003 and last year with Sabah recording an 80 per cent increase from 24,000 to 44,000 arrivals.
The first five months saw 12,160 Japanese, specifically coming for Sabah's eco-tourism.
He said Brunei tourists made up the highest number during the period, accounting for 22,000.
Meanwhile, MAS will be increasing its KK-Tokyo (Narita)-KK direct flights from twice weekly to three a week. Its new Sabah Area Manager, Mohd Nazeri Abd Karim, said the third would commence from July 1 to complement the growing number of Japanese visitors to Sabah.
The sector is serviced by the B777-200 aircraft which offers 35 Business Class seats and 231 Economy Class seats.
He said the airline believes the additional flight would further enhance Sabah as a preferred holiday destination in the Japanese market.
"Likewise, Malaysia Airlines is positive that tourism players in Sabah will respond to this opportunity and work together with the authorities particularly the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Tourism Malaysia and Sabah Tourism Board," he said.
The trend for inbound tourism, he said, has recorded a steady 36 per cent annual growth from 1999 to last year.
Last year, Sabah recorded 1.77 million arrivals and that this is expected to grow to four million in five years. "With the additional flight, we can expect between 60 and 70 Japanese boarding each flight to Sabah."
Meanwhile, STB would be bringing local Mt Kinabalu Climbathon runners, Danny @ Kuilin Gongot and Mius Belinting for the Mt Fuji Race sometime in July. Its Deputy General Manager, Gordon C. Yapp, said the STB would also take part in tourism promotions at the Takashimaya Store.
Courtesy of: Daily Express