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Cheaper overseas flights hurt domestic tourism
Published on: Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kota Kinabalu: Cheaper popular overseas destinations are taking the shine away from domestic tourism, especially with more very low-cost travel packages.

State, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, said while this was good, it gives people a chance to travel to popular places at a very low cost, it also posed a challenge in the effort to attract more domestic tourists to Sabah.

"For example, even going to London nowadays only costs about RM199 and even RM99, I mean how to beat, because going to Tawau costs over RM300," he said.

"But I believe over time, people will look at the quality of travel.

We are talking about travelling within Malaysia, which I must admit has not reached the desired level," he told reporters after he officiated at the opening of a three-day Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) Fair 2011 at Suria Sabah Mall, here, Saturday.

Masidi also said the Ministry will be going on a rather aggressive tourism campaign to sell Sabah in Peninsular Malaysia.

"We are working with radio stations, we are talking to a few other agencies in KL with which we can work together to bring in more West Malaysians to Sabah for holidays," he said.

"I think what has not been communicated is the quality of products we have in Sabah. I think it is about our ability to tell them (West Malaysians) what we have to offer in Sabah," he added.

He said over the last year there has been a marginal increase in tourists from West Malaysia to Sabah, about 3 per cent.

Masidi, in his speech earlier, also mentioned that the Ministry wants to attract more tourists from southern China.

"We hope in the not too distant future, Malaysia Airlines or any other airline would assist in this effort by considering to provide a direct flight between Beijing and Kota Kinabalu, as well as to Shanghai," he said.

On travel tours to Japan being cancelled following the earthquake-tsunami disaster, Masidi said there have been requests made locally for rescheduling of tours to Japan.

On the problem between AirAsia and Transport Ministry over the transfer from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA), Masidi said he would rather leave it to the Ministry concerned to make a decision on the matter.

"Of course we would like the issues to be settled amicably by the various parties involved. Because at the end of the day, we want Sabah to benefit from it√ČI have studied the arguments of both sides, which I found both have a valid argument, but I am not going to get involved because it is not my problem, it's theirs," he said.

AmBank (M) Berhad's Managing Director (Retail Banking), Datuk Mohamed Azmi Mahmood, and Satta Chairman Winston Liaw, who is also the organising chairman were also present.

Meanwhile, Liaw said the fair was aimed at stimulating the travel sentiment of the people, to overcome the negative effect from the unrest in North Africa which has subsequently spread to the Middle East.

"Unfortunately last Friday Japan was hit severely by a devastating earthquake and radiation leak which further deepen the already weakening industry," he said, urging all airlines to consider refunding the deposit paid by travel agents to Japan so that the travel agents can in turn refund the said deposit to their clients.

Satta also hoped the government sector can play their role and work hand-in-hand with all the travel industry players to maintain or even reach higher goals in terms of both inbound and outbound travel.

Thanking Ambank for being its official partner for the fair, Liaw said the bank has given away more than RM50,000 in cash vouchers which together with the vouchers given by the participating Satta agents would total more than RM100,000.

Malaysia Airlines which is also taking part in the fair has sponsored one return air ticket to Haneda, Japan, one return air ticket to Perth, Australia and one return air ticket to Kuala Lumpur.

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