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Bet on tourism proven right: CM
Published on: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: With annual earnings running into billions of ringgit, new jobs and entrepreneurs created, the State Government is convinced it made a right decision over a decade ago to bet on tourism as the main driver of the local economy.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman said after putting in years of effort, Sabah is now seeing the results.

He singled out the growth of the hotel industry in the State as testament to the success that was envisioned by the Government.

"Today, we see spin-offs in this sector ranging from those who have become entrepreneurs by offering services including delivery of food items to quality jobs that enhance the skills of locals," he said, when officiating the grand opening of Mercure Hotel, Monday.

He noted that the 25-storey hotel located in the heart of the city has created some 150 jobs.

The Mercure brand, with over 750 hotels in 58 countries, boasts a combination of strength of an international network with strong quality commitment and are rooted in the local community.

Musa said the Government's efforts to market Sabah has relied strongly on identifying and working with the right partners ranging from the private sector to tourism associations and the relevant international groupings.

"After many years of putting in the effort, we are now seeing the results," he said, and added that this was followed by the attention of the Federal Government on tourism as outlined in the Sabah Development Corridor and Economic Transformation Programme.

He noted that Sabah has also seen a rise in interest among airlines to offer direct flights from regional destinations into Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) due to strong market support, availability of hotels and quality services.

"This is an impressive growth," he said, adding that Sabah welcomes Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai's recent statement on the Ministry being prepared to engage more airlines to use KKIA to fly in more tourists to Sabah.

Meanwhile, State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming announced in a press conference later that Sabah will receive a new flight destination from Chengdu, China, from Nov. 15 mounted three times a week by Malindo Air.

This would be followed by another China city, Changsha, starting Dec. 1, also mounted by Malindo Air.

He further announced that the same airline is likely to service two more China destinations previously flown by Malaysia Airlines before Chinese New Year namely Tenjin and Guangzhou.

With these new flights Sabah now has 171 international flights with close to 80 of them from China.

While this looks promising, Pang admits that Sabah still faces shortage of hotel rooms particularly those with three, four and five-star ratings.

However, he said shortage would not be for long as more new hotels are expected to open from next year onwards, including top international hotel chains.

He also hoped more investors would invest in beach resorts in Sabah, as they are in high demand by tourists.

On the latest international tourist arrivals in Sabah, Pang revealed that from January to August this year the total number was 810,660 with 296,441 from China. He expects the number to reach 450,000 by year end.

But he said there had been an interesting increase of Koreans coming to visit with 196,895 until August.

The figure shows a striking increase of 53 per cent from the same corresponding period last year.

Domestic travelers to the state also increased by 12 per cent compared to the period of eight months in 2016, with 1.62 million overall. - Leonard Alaza

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