Need to lure more Thai and Taiwanese tourists
Published on: Sunday, January 05, 2020
By: David Thien
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KOTA KINABALU: Taiwan which is holding its presidential election this January 11 contributed more or less 40,000 visitors (4pc) to Sabah from October last year. This can be improved upon with better promotions and more chartered flights.

Due to its political friction with the People’s Republic of China, there is prospect that Taiwan tourists are more receptive to follow the Taiwanese government’s directive to “Look South”, nations that lie south of Taiwan for business and investment, including Sabah.

From September last year, the Formosa Island was the fifth largest tourist contributor to Sabah after China (45pc), South Korea (26pc), Indonesia (8pc) and Brunei Darussalam (5pc).

Taiwan tourist arrivals were higher than the Philippines (3pc), Europe (3pc), Singapore (2pc), Japan (2pc) and Australia (2pc), according to SmithsGore Report, which indicated why the Thai AirAsia flight into Sabah was terminated in the last quarter of 2019.

A report by Christopher Chan (pic), associate for SmithsGore, indicates: “A total of 310 visitors from Thailand in September 2019 as compared to 269 for the same month in 2018, an increase of 41 or 15.24 per cent. A total of 3,696 visitors from January to September 2019 as compared to 3,126 for the same period in 2018, an increase of 570 or 18.23 per cent.”

This is not profitable or sustainable for the Thai AirAsia without many other tourists flying into Kota Kinabalu from the Bangkok hub, notably tourists from China, Japan, Europe and West Asia keen on the Thailand holiday experience and to continue on with what Sabah has to offer.

This year, AirAsia Malaysia is expected to resume flights from Kota Kinabalu to Bangkok. There is hope for a better load in this Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

Last year, the Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, for the first time, successfully hosted a Business Investment and Matching Forum for Thai business community to meet with Sabah and East Malaysia business community beyond the Bimp-Eaga scope at Kota Kinabalu Hilton, in collaboration with the Federation of Sabah Industries (FSI).

FSI President Datuk Ir. Chong Hon Len moderated a business presentation session by Thai entrepreneurs and investors on their successes, particularly in investments in Sabah.

“The SICC will be scheduled for opening next year and this will generate a new market segment for the tourism industry in the coming years,” said Chan.

“It will be a new challenge to the service industry, events management and the public transport sector. A new crop of service professionals will be trained and engaged in this specialised market segmentation.

“The State Government has been actively promoting Sabah Development Blueprint on major industries with potentials for China investors, apart from the tourism, agri-business including aquaculture and food industry for our youths to venture into as career opportunities,” he added.

At the recent New Silk Road (NSR) Asia Pacific Forum in Kota Kinabalu, State Ministers shared and advised participants on steps taken to attract more investors from China in areas like Kudat, where agricultural lands are suitable for farming, Sapangar where the port and KKIP industrial areas are located.

“Investment on beach resorts like Club Med are welcome rather than hotels in Kota Kinabalu which are saturating the market in the short term,” said Chan.

Sabah is not well equipped or suitable for mass tourism like religious temples in Bangkok or mega shopping centres as most local attractions are more suited to niche tourism approach.


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