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Sabah targets 2.95m tourist arrivals for this year
Published on: Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kota Kinabalu: The targeted tourist arrivals to Sabah would be revised to a slightly lower figure of between 2.93 million and 2.95 million, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun. Masidi noted that Sabah had an impressive figure last year when it broke the all time record with total tourist arrivals of 2,844,597.

"I think we worked too hard last year, so we are going to revise it slightly down because the arrival last year means it's 13.6 per cent increase," he said during the launching of 'KK City Boardwalk' here, Friday.

"Thus, we want to be a bit realistic in the arrival and perhaps we are targeting 2.93 or 2.95 which would mean three to four per cent increase," said Masidi.

"I hope this doesn't de-motivate hoteliers, I'm a very realistic person and we know some routes were cut by Malaysian Airlines (MAS), such as Australia and Japan.

"Thus, I am taking that into consideration but I believe we will still be able to come up in a positive territory next year," said Masidi who expressed disappointment with the move taken by MAS.

"It's a very serious problem because we are living in an island, we are not like those living in Kuala Lumpur, where people can travel by train from Singapore or from the North.

"Obviously we in Sabah cannot go to Kuala Lumpur by sampan (boat), it has to be air service, which is why connectivity is very important to the tourism industry," he said.

"Last year, since MAS reduced some direct flights, we had to redirect our move, which is why Sabah Tourism is now looking more towards the north which is China.

"Last year, the Chinese arrivals went up by 37 per cent although China has no direct link with us, except through Hong Kong and I think it will increase in the future.

"We have talked to a couple of Chinese airlines and one airline has already started a charter flight and I will be going up to Guangzhou on Feb 26 to meet up with another airline.

"Hopefully there will be another airline from China who will start with initially charter flight and if the business is good, will continue as a scheduled flight," he said.

'Last year, tourist arrivals from Australia went up by 33.9 per cent and I was told by our agent in Perth that all the guests are now going to Singapore Airlines, just so they could come here.

"As a Malaysian, I'm sad that we have a national airline that should be serving us, but seems like they have taken a drastic step which may not serve the interests of Malaysians in Sabah and its own interest," he said.

He explained that the government has taken steps to set up a task force under the chairmanship of the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop to look into the issue.

"The other members of the task force is of course myself, the Sarawak Minister of Tourism and MAS Chairman and hopefully we can come to an amicable solution soon, " he said.

"This is an assurance to the people in Kota Kinabalu, especially those in the business sector that we want to make sure that the business created by the tourism industry will continue to flourish," said Masidi.

Meanwhile, a city should be build to enhance its life and to ensure the soul of the city remains vibrant, said Masidi.

"Eventually, what we should be building is a city where businessmen continue to make money, the hotels and restaurants continue to be filled with visitors.

"But at the same time, ensure that the locals feel that their life has been enhance by the development that we have put in," he said while launching the 'KK City Boardwalk'.

He suggested a few names for the boardwalk.

"Perhaps we can name the boardwalk 'The Kaki Lima of Kota Kinabalu' or since this is a recreation boardwalk, perhaps we could name the place 'Lalu Ria' (recreational walkway).

"This is the sort of creative names that we need to think. We should make it simple and not easily forgotten by visitors to the place," he said.

He applauded the Waterfront Urban Development Chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Rashid who was also the former mayor of Kota Kinabalu who initiated the project which finally became a reality under the leadership of current Mayor, Datuk Abidin Madingkir.

"I am satisfied because City Hall has been quite sensitive to the needs to build a city that caters to everyone. Kota Kinabalu is not just intended for the businessmen, it is also intended for those who are staying here.

"I must also congratulate the non-governmental organisations, who has been very vocal about how Kota Kinabalu should be developed.

"Sometimes we may not agree with what they are saying but I think they bring us into reality of what really needs to be done in the city," he said.

He also noted that Sabahans are very fortunate to have one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

"Sometimes we may feel that our place is not beautiful, but trust me Sabah is one of the most beautiful places in this world, said Masidi who is an avid traveler himself.

"Sometimes we spend thousands to look for the most beautiful place in the world without realising that it is in our backyard, which is Sabah.

"Sabahans are also the best Malaysians in the country and we have shown to the rest of the world and country that indeed we are the best Malaysians and that itself is an added value to what we have in Sabah," he said.

He added that even the sunset in Sabah has been acknowledged by Time Magazine as one of the most beautiful in the world.

"Hence, don't throw rubbish unnecessarily, in fact one of the most biggest challenges to us, is that tourists complains about rubbish all over the place," Masidi said.

Also present were Resource Development and Information Technology Minister, Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai and his Assistant, Datuk Jainab Ayid and Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir, among others.



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