Monday, June 20, 2016

The future is still bright for Sabah’s tourism industry

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.