KENINGAU: Sabah is confident of registering more than 1.7 million tourist arrivals this year as the state continues to register an increasing trend since the reopening of borders post-Covid-19 pandemic.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Hajiji Haji Noor said Sabah registered a total of 792,899 visitor arrivals from January to April this year, comprising 565,424 domestic and 227,475 international visitors, marking a 94.1 per cent increase compared to 408,530 for the corresponding period last year.
“This bodes well for Sabah as we continue to push for more air connectivity into Sabah to add to the current weekly 100 international flights with a total seat capacity of 18,164 and domestic flights of 366 with a total seat capacity of 60,303,” he said at the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) Programme with the Community at the Sports Complex here last night.
Hajiji said the State Government strives to develop the tourism sector through upgrading basic tourism facilities for the convenience and safety of tourists as well as developing and upskilling community-based tourism (CoBT) operators.
He said the State Government gives priority to CoBT and wants it to be expanded throughout the state so that more operators in the rural areas will benefit from the economic opportunities.
The Chief Minister said in 2019, two pilot CoBT projects in Kiulu, Tuaran and Kadamaian, Kota Belud had performed exceptionally well with Kiulu generating RM5.45 million in revenue, attracting 54,000 visitors and creating 300 jobs while the project in Kadamaian had generated RM2.57 million revenue, attracted 217,000 visitors and created 251 jobs.
CoBT has since been adopted in many districts in the state including in the interior and Keningau, which are a tourism haven for adventure, culture, environment, food and history enthusiasts.
It was in this respect, he said that the State Government through the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry had allocated RM10 million under its Sabah New Deal initiative to repair basic tourism infrastructure in the rural areas, benefitting not only Keningau but also Nabawan, Tenom and Tambunan.
“We are also proud because other states in Malaysia like Terengganu, Melaka, Sarawak and Pahang has looked to Sabah to learn from our success in developing the rural tourism industry.
“We are confident that by 2030, Sabah will achieve 80 percent ASEAN standard compliance target for CoBT in Sabah,” he said.
To date, Sabah has won various awards such as the ASEAN Community Based Tourism
Award, ASEAN Homestay Award, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Best Village Tourism and the World Crafts Council Award of Excellence for Handicraft, Asia Pacific Region.
“I hope today’s MOTAC with the Keningau community programme will encourage community involvement in introducing the arts, culture, heritage and local cultural activities to the masses and foreign visitors.
“It is an apt platform to promote domestic tourism and boost public awareness on the Visit Malaysia Year 2025 and Cuti-Cuti Malaysia campaigns, which will contribute to more income from tourism for the state and country,” he said.
He also thanked the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Dato Sri Tiong King Sing for announcing a RM2 million allocation to upgrade tourism infrastructures in Keningau.
Also present were Deputy Chief Minister I/Minister of Agricuture, Fisheries and Food
Industry Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan, State Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Joniston Bangkuai and local dignitaries.