State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun in announcing this, Tuesday, said this was a historic achievement for Sabah's tourism industry, where it recorded 3.3 million tourist arrivals.
The figure surpassed the targets set for two years (2013 and 2014) as Masidi said the Ministry expects the number of arrivals to increase between four and five per cent or between 3.5 million and 3.6 million arrivals.
"We have recorded a 17.6 per cent increase in arrivals compared to 2012. They (tourists) must have liked Sabah," he said. Domestic tourism remained a major contributor with 68 per cent of the total arrivals or 2.29 million.
Overall, international arrivals recorded a growth of 15.7 per cent, mainly from China and Hong Kong (86.7 per cent up), South Korea (32.1 per cent up), Japan (25 per cent up) and Taiwan (15.5 per cent up).
However, he noted the number of visitors from the United States, Australia and several other countries had declined, perhaps due to the ongoing travel advisories. Masidi said there is also a good development in the number of chartered flights into Sabah from 164 in 2012 to 262 in 2013. "I believe this is the highest number of chartered flights recorded in the country," he said.
However, Masidi warned the number may drop due to shortage of hotel rooms in the State as most hotels recorded about 92 per cent occupancy rates and close to 100 per cent in peak travel periods.
"We need to realise that we do not have enough rooms, unless we direct our tourists to Sandakan, which is also facing a huge problem on hotels," he said.
He claimed most travel agents fear to place bookings in Sabah, as there had been instances of their clients canceling their trip to Sabah because there were no hotel rooms available.
Estimating 2,000 more rooms would be needed in the city to solve the shortage, Masidi said the J.W Marriot Hotel would open by end of this year and Hilton (opposite the Bandaran Berjaya Shangrila) by 2015.