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Sabah’s iconic wildlife never fail
Published on: Sunday, May 14, 2023
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Liew (centre), flanked by Houlind (left) and Teo at the Borneo Eco Tours booth.
SABAH’S iconic wildlife was a selling-point at the ITB Berlin 2023, catching the eye of international tourists and visitors who thronged the world’s largest travel trade show.

This was one of the observations made by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew who led a delegation to the mammoth event where she officially launched Sabah’s new destination branding – “Feel Sabah, North Borneo”.

Taking centre stage were images of the orangutan, proboscis monkey and Bornean pygmy elephant, strategically placed at the Sabah segment of the Malaysian Pavilion.

Sabah’s tourism players, who participated in the show, had a field day, promoting wildlife-based tour packages to the European market, according to Liew who presented toy orangutan and proboscis monkey to European tour operators when they came a-calling.

Among the tourism players were Borneo Eco Tours, Borneo Nature Tours, Borneo Trails Tours & Travel, Rustic Borneo, Sepilok Tropical Wildlife Adventure and Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

“I am happy to see that they (Sabah tourism players) are doing very well. As I visit their booths, their response is in the affirmative when asked how they are faring,” she said.

President of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta), Datuk K.L. Tan (left pic). Liew, accompanied by Chin, helping to promote the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (right). 

“A few of them share that they have successfully closed deals with European travel agents.”

For instance, Borneo Eco Tours Joint Managing Director, Timothy Teo reported that he had closed a deal with Stina Houlind who is the Product Manager of Nyhavn Rejser (a travel agency in Copenhagen, Denmark).

“Our endeavour started this year already. She came to our Sukau Lodge (along the Kinabatangan River) in February this year to see for herself and was so delighted. Actually, I met her boss last year at another travel trade show in Marrakech, Morocco.

“Now they have completely come onboard with us,” he enthused.

For the President of Sandakan Tourism Association Johnny Lim, the world’s largest travel trade show (also known as tourism trade fair) in Berlin was a meeting-point for him and Marianne from Estonia who had earlier sent an email to Lim asking about tours in Sandakan.

Sandakan is the gateway to Sabah’s exotic wildlife.

“I invited her to visit us in Berlin. She did and we managed to build trust and close a deal for 14 persons,” said Lim who is also Director of Sepilok Tropical Wildlife Adventure.

The tour package involved one-night stay at the Sepilok Jungle Resort to see the orangutan and sun bear, two-night stay at Bilit Adventure Lodge (along the Kinabatangan River) and one-night stay at Turtle Island.

President of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta), Datuk K.L. Tan told the Minister that the Europe market had responded positively despite challenges and pricey airfares.

“Nature, wildlife and sustainable tourism products are well sought-after,” he said.

According to him, the support by Sabah Tourism Board (STB), together with Selangor, Perak and Penang at the Matta Pavilion, had created huge awareness of the respective state destinations and their tourism offerings, including Sabah.

Said the then Matta Sabah Chapter Chairman Lawrence Chin who was marketing the Tabin Wildlife Reserve to the European market for a unique wildlife experience: 

“It pays to showcase one’s tourism product at the ITB Berlin 2023. In fact, I have been participating since a few years ago. More Europeans are now aware and opting for the Tabin Wildlife Resort (within the Tabin Wildlife Reserve) as a vacation destination. Some are even coming back for new experiences.”

Located in Lahad Datu, the Tabin Wildlife Reserve is a nature preserve. 

It is home to a wide range of endangered wildlife such as Bornean pygmy elephant, orangutan, Tembadau and exotic bird species.


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