BERLIN: Sabah aspires to secure a fair share of the tourism pie by penetrating the relatively untapped European travel market, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew.
“For this reason, I am attending the ITB Berlin 2019 together with the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) team to promote Sabah as an international tourist destination through business sessions and networking with tourism players, tour operators and travel agents from Germany and other countries.
“ITB Berlin is all about international tourism and the global tourism industry,” she said after attending the official Opening Ceremony for ITB 2019 at City Cube Berlin, Messe Berlin, here on Tuesday.
This year, Malaysia is the official partner country of ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show.
ITB stands for Internationale Tourismusborse Berlin (in German) or International Tourism Berlin.
Liew, who is also Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, led a 13-member delegation from STB, including six cultural dancers from the Sabah Cultural Board, to participate in the four-day travel trade show featuring exhibitors from the Asia-Pacific region.
Among them were STB Chairman Ken Pan Ying On, General Manager Suzaini Datuk Sabdin Ghani, Marketing Manager Cassie Perpetua Forsythe and Assistant Marketing Manager Daniel Roman.
The Minister looks forward to an increase of visitorship from Germany at least up to 10,000 or more for 2019 compared with 7,000 German tourist arrivals the previous year.
“Why Germany? This is because Germans are the world’s travel champions who spend more on foreign travel than any other nation. It is also the gateway to other European countries.”
To appeal to Germany and other European markets, Liew is banking on Sabah’s natural beauty, unique wildlife, rich ethnic culture, fresh seafood and other attractions.
“I am inviting Germans and other Europeans to come and discover Sabah for themselves. For wildlife conservation and nature tourism, new areas are being explored for visitors to see rare animals such as the Sunda Clouded Leopard, Bornean Pygmy Elephant and Orang Utan in the wild.”
These areas, she said, are mainly situated in the East Coast of Sabah between Tawau and Lahad Datu.
“We are offering back-to- nature locations such as the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu which is now open to visitors (in addition to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre).”
For Sabah Tourism to keep abreast of current trends such as Wellness Tourism, Liew has endorsed Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council’s (MHTC) proposal to hold an International Medical Tourism Conference in Sabah next year.
This followed a meeting with MHTC Chief Executive Officer Sherene Azli who briefed the Minister on Malaysia Year of Healthcare Travel 2020.
MHTC is an initiative under the Federal Ministry of Finance.
A motivating factor is that last year, Malaysia received a total of 25.8 million international tourists.
Given that 2020 is Visit Malaysia Year, Tourism Malaysia is confident of a vibrant growth to 30 million arrival figures and tourism receipts attaining the RM100 billion mark next year.
In this regard, Liew said STB would also be looking into new air connectivity from Berlin via Kuala Lumpur to enable keen travellers to reach Sabah.
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Datuk Mohammadin Ketapi was the guest of honour at the opening ceremony, launching of Malaysia Pavilion that houses the exhibition booths and opening of the ITB Berlin Convention, rated as the leading Travel Industry Think Tank, on Wednesday.
Malaysia was also the organiser of the opening event marked by a Malaysian Cultural Performance with the theme “Colours of Malaysia” which charmed the European audience with a spectacular display of indigenous dances peculiar to the Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak.
The convention discussed pertinent issues such as climate change, overtourism, destination marketing (products and services), sustainable eco-tourism development, expansion of tourism infrastructure, eTravel World and travel trends for 2019.
Also present were Sarawak Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth & Sports, Datuk Hj Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Malaysia Ambassador to Germany, Sarah AL Bakri Devadason, Chairman of Tourism Malaysia, Datuk Ahmad Shah Tambakau and President of MATTA (Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents), Datuk Tan Kok Liang.-SabahNewsToday