By Sabah News Today
KUALA LUMPUR: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said Sabah is very much honoured to be selected as ‘Malaysia’s Favourite Destination’ at the 47th edition of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Fair 2019.
He described the event as a great opportunity for Sabah to be promoted as a world-class premier eco-tourism destination and towards achieving our target of four million tourist arrivals in 2019, comprising 2.57 million domestic travellers and the rest from overseas.
“In 2018, Sabah tourism set a new record with the highest tourism receipts ever at RM8.34 billion on the back of a record-high 3.879 million arrivals, an increase of 6.6pc on tourism receipts and a 5.3pc increase on arrivals compared with 2017,” he said at the opening of Matta Fair 2019 at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), here, Saturday.
The text of his speech was read by his Deputy, Datuk Christina Liew who is also Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment.
Shafie, who is also State Finance Minister, emphasised the importance of reinventing Sabah’s tourist attractions through continued investments in new attractions and infrastructure.
He congratulated Matta under the leadership of Datuk Tan Kok Liang on putting together such a wonderful event to promote the tourism industry.
“I am glad to see that Sabah tourism has been proactive in implementing new products, enhanced services and productivity improvement.
“The Sabah State Government will continue to support in transformation efforts. We are also constantly reviewing our tourism strategies to see how we can further enhance Sabah’s attractiveness as a destination for different groups of visitors.
“We will continue to work hard and look for areas where we can improve and do even better,” he said.
Shafie added that in a highly competitive global tourism market, we need to offer attractive reasons for tourists to visit Sabah, and to return for subsequent visits after their initial experience in Sabah.
The CM also expressed the need to continue developing a vibrant and perse (or upcoming) events calendar to bring in more visitors to Sabah throughout the year. Key Sabah tourism events include KK Jazz Festival, Regatta Lepa-Lepa Semporna, Sabah Fest and Mt Kinabalu International Climbathon.
He reiterated that the Sabah State Government remains committed to growing our tourism sector to create economic opportunities for businesses and generate jobs for locals.
“While the road ahead is not without its challenges, our passion gives us the courage to come up with ambitious plans and the resilience to take risks and sustain our journey.”
Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board (STB) Ken Pan Ying On led a delegation of 30 co-exhibitors comprising 25 tour operators, two dive operators, two hotels and one hotel association.
STB’s 16 booths showcased the State’s tourism products under the Sabah Pavilion ranging from heritage and culture, scenic island visits, scuba diving, jungle trekking, bird watching to adventure and other attractions that are top notch and considered to be good value for money.
One of the highlights of the Fair was the introduction of ‘Cuti-Cuti Tawau’ to promote tourism in the East Coast of Sabah, taking visitors and tourists beyond the already popular Kota Kinabalu in the West Coast.
Tawau is the gateway to the Eastern part of the State where the towns of Semporna, Lahad Datu and Sandakan are located.
“Sabah’s East Coast has many unique nature-based attractions as well as a historical heritage that is not found in the West Coast.
There is also an island off Lahad Datu that is being promoted as the easternmost point of Malaysia where the ‘first sunrise’ of Malaysia can be witnessed,” Shafie said.
According to him, Tawau tourism packages, launched on July 13, 2018, are an initiative by Matta to promote the district as a tourism hub.
“Tawau has what it takes and the launch of the tourism packages will contribute to greater inbound and domestic tourism growth.”
Expressing his appreciation to Matta and Matta Sabah Chapter for their unwavering support to the Sabah tourism industry, Shafie asserted that it is vital for Sabah to forge strong partnerships with these industry stakeholders and other tourism associations.
“By working together, we can pool our ideas and resources to co-create innovative offerings that can enhance our competitiveness in the region.”
Earlier, the President of Matta said domestic tourism is one of the key anchors in the tourism industry and contributes about 15pc to the national economy. “At the same time, domestic tourism provides employment opportunities to about 3.2 million people in Malaysia.”
Tan stressed that Matta Fair encourages domestic travel by introducing new, attractive and fresh itineraries designed for special market needs such as adventure, sports, eco-tourism, luxury travel and cruise tourism in Malaysia.
“This Fair is a great opportunity for consumers to enjoy a great variety of value-for-money domestic and international tour packages at competitive prices,” he said, adding that Firefly Airlines (sister company of Malaysia Airlines) is offering discounts of up to 30 per cent on airfares to any Firefly destinations.
According to him, Matta’s decision to partner with our national carrier, Malaysia Airlines as the Official Airline since 2018, has allowed the Association to offer visitors exciting travel destinations and travel options at incredible prices.
“Travellers enjoy discounts of up to 30pc on airfares to a host of local and international destinations within Malaysia Airlines’ network, and its wide range offerings of travel perks.”
Meanwhile, Tan assured that as the leading and largest national travel association in Malaysia with over 3,500 members and growing, Matta will continue to champion the tourism industry.
This, he said, can be achieved by pursuing effective initiatives catering to the needs of members so that they can thrive and become successful for the growth of Malaysia’s tourism industry.-SabahNewsToday