KOTA KINABALU: The tourism sector is a key contributor to the country’s economy amid global uncertainties, said Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.
He said Malaysia’s eco-tourism was a major draw for tourists from Europe, Japan, South Korea and China and that the visa-free facility for Chinese nationals to Malaysia was expected to attract eight million visitors and an
estimated RM22 billion revenue every year with an average spending of RM3,500 per person.
“Tourism is a saviour of Malaysia’s economy…visa-free facility is offered to various third world countries as means to rebuild the economy,” he said at the launching ceremony of an engagement session with Sabah’s tourism industry players organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture here today. Also present was Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.
He urged tourism industry players in Sabah to take advantage of the visa-free entry for foreigners particularly Chinese citizens to boost the state’s economy as well as Kota Kinabalu’s strategic location as a hub or ‘flying route’ of Borneo due to its proximity from China, Hong Kong and Japan.
According to Mohamed Nazri, despite challenges faced in its tourist segment, Sabah had managed to remain at the forefront of the industry.“Sabah has marketed itself well overseas as evidenced by enquiries made regarding Borneo during my visits to events like the World Travel Mart, Asian
Travel Market and ITB (International Travel Trade Show) Berlin. When I was in Amsterdam and Madrid, people at travel fairs were asking about proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants in Borneo which Sabah is widely known for,” he said.
Mohamed Nazri also emphasised the importance of experiential tourism through homestay programmes to the local community in Sabah and its development, and said one of the sector’s challenges was poor maintenance of old structures with historical value.
Speaking to reporters later, Mohamed Nazri disclosed that in 2011, China topped the list of visitor arrivals to Sabah at 228,910 followed by Indonesia (over 183,000), South Korea (121,170), Brunei (79,140) and the Philippines (more than 40,000) with the majority of travellers coming for eco-tourism.
He said his ministry planned to hold a joint promotion in Berlin in March with Singapore Airlines (SIA) on launching flights to Malaysian cities including Kota Kinabalu to boost tourist numbers from European countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy with a memorandum of understanding being planned with the