Tuesday, February 14, 2006

5-point tourism push for Sabah, Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu: The Federal Government has worked out five approaches aimed at giving more exposure to increased arrivals, particularly high-end tourists, that will spur Sabah's tourism industry to a new heights.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Zahid Hamidi said the Government was committed to developing Sabah's tourism which has more to offer than any other State in the country.

He said he had underlined five points during a discussion earlier with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, State Tourism Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat and Sabah Tourism Board Chairman, Tengku Datuk Adlin.

Speaking after visiting Pulau Sapi and Pulau Manukan in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park here, Sunday, Zahid said firstly the Government hoped to improve accessibility mainly through creating more direct international flights and special chartered flights to Sabah.

Last year, Sabah received about 1.8 million tourist arrivals and generated about RM2.5 billion revenue from foreign exchange.

In this respect, Zahid said the ideal target would be to get 60 per cent of the visitors from the high-end group who would be coming as designed tourists and another 40 per cent being the back packers or foreign independent travellers.

"We have discussed with several foreign airline companies to create direct flights for target groups, especially high-end tourists," he said, adding among them are special interest group such as foreign experts working in multi-nationals through special package arrangements.

He added Sabah had been chosen as destinations for foreign holiday-makers during the summer and winter holidays as well as Nuruz holiday for Iranian tourists through special chartered flights.

"I've discussed on bringing these (flights) to Sabah with three tour companies," he said.

Secondly, he proposed that at least three international events be organised using the existing tourism products in Sabah annually.

"Including the Kinabalu Park and other products subjected to suitable themes chosen by the STB, Tourism Malaysia and spearheaded by the State Government," he said, adding this would help give more exposure and improve the level of awareness on tourism in Sabah.

The Federal Government also wants new tourism products to be created of which some actually already exist but not promoted or designed for long haul travelers.

At the same time, the existing products and related services need to be improved.

Among the products that can be further promoted to special interest groups is bird watching in Kinabalu Park where half of the 600 species of birds in Borneo can be found.

Another was to organise an international photography on the flora and fauna in Sabah, which would be able to attract more international attention.

Lastly, Zahid said the State Government agreed, in principle, to offer various tourism sites including five-star hotels and resorts, to be developed by foreign investors.

"This is subjected to what the State Government would get in return as well as the ability of the sites to attract international tourists," he said.

Zahid said this was the first of his working visits and he had chosen Sabah as the first being a special and having most diverse tourism products in the country.

He hoped to get first hand information and feedback from the State Government, especially the Chief Minister, Tourism Minister and STB itself on the industry with the view to find ways to develop it further.

"The uniqueness in Sabah is that the people and the Government are really looking forward to reach a new benchmark, especially to bring in long-haul in bound tourists," he said.

"What is important is that the community must give full support to the industry since it is a service industry. So hospitality must be given priorityƆhe income generated not only directly benefit the tourism players but also the community and the State," he said.

Earlier in Pulau Sapi, Zahid together with Tengku Adlin got a first hand experience walking underneath the sea through a tourism product called Sea Walking.

Also on hand were State Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Karim Bujang, STB General Manager, Datuk Irene Charuruks and Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board Sabah director, Iskandar Mirza Mohd Yusof.

Source: Daily Express

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