Chinese tourists coming to Sabah again, state minister says

Sabah is known for its biodiversity and rich ecotourism attractions such as world class dive sites and pristine forests. — Picture by Julia Chan
Sabah is known for its biodiversity and rich ecotourism attractions such as world class dive sites and pristine forests. — Picture by Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, Nov 23 —  Sabah has earned back the confidence of the China tourism pie, with a 46.3 per cent increase of tourists in the first nine months of the year, said state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

The minister said that the increase in number of tourists, was helped by the 66 direct flights to the state capital per week from China which was a huge contributor to the state’s tourism industry.

“We also saw a total of 193 chartered flights into Sabah in the first nine months of the year, of which 169 were from China. It’s not that easy to get airlines to fly here directly. It’s a huge vote of confidence coming from the Chinese,” he said.

Masidi told the House during the Sabah State assembly sitting today that the state also saw a huge leap of visitors from Korea at 45.2 per cent and Taiwan at 26.8 per cent.

He said so far, the year has seen an increase in tourism, with a 14.2 per cent rise in international arrivals at 849,425 visitors while domestic tourism saw a 1.1 per cent increase at 1.6 million visitors.

“We have recorded tourism receipts of about RM5.3 billion compared to RM4.95 billion during the same period last year,” he said.

Masidi, who is also Karanaan assemblyman said 2015 saw a total of 3.176 million visitors and RM6.6 billion in tourism dollars and was optimistic of hitting its target this year.

He also attributed the reopening of the Mount Kinabalu climbing routes following a deadly earthquake last June and the annual Climbathon as reasons for the increase in tourists.

Sabah which is known for its biodiversity and rich ecotourism attractions such as world class dive sites, pristine forests and among the highest peaks in South-east Asia, suffered severe tourist withdrawals following a spate of kidnappings from tourist islands in the east coast of Sabah.

With strengthened security, bandits who used to prey on tourists for kidnap and ransom activities have now switched their sights and are targeting fishing boats travelling out to open sea. Some seven kidnapping incidents have been reported in Sabah this year.