KOTA KINABALU March 19, 2012: The Tourism Ministry’s projection of 3.7 million expected tourist arrivals in Sabah this year is ‘very misleading and highly exaggerated’, claims a businessman involved in the Sabah tourism industry.
Tham Yau Kong, the proprietor of an inbound tour company in Sabah, said that the figures were unrealistic.
“If 3.7 million tourists arrive in Sabah in one year, that means 308,000 arrive every month, or 10,277 everyday. There is no such thing! In fact it’s quite impossible!” Tham told FMT.
Asked how the government had come up with such figures, Tham said that the Tourism Ministry had recorded the number of people leaving and re-entering Sabah within one month.
He said many of these ‘tourists’ were immigrants, who used the sea ports in the east coast and traveled into and out of Sabah many times a month doing all sorts of businesses in Indonesia and the Philippines.
“If an immigrant goes out and returns 10 times in a month, he is recorded as 10 tourist arrivals.. And there are hundreds of them doing this all the time,” he said.
Tham said there was also the instances of foreigners literally living in Sabah on tourist visas.
“We must also understand that there is high traffic of foreigners on visit passes who have to leave the state every few months, and they simply make the short trip to Brunei to get their passports chopped (stamped) and come back immediately.
“These too are wrongly counted as tourists,” said Tham.
He also cited the cases of visiting Peninsular Malaysians and Sarawakians who are required to fill up arrival forms.
He said such visitors arrived and returned from Sabah several times per month and they too were counted repeatedly as different tourists.
“The real tourists come to Sabah normally during the tourist season which is from April to October,” he explained.
“And it is during this season that we hear of Kota Kinabalu not having enough hotel rooms. But for the rest of the year many hotels in fact face low occupancy problem.”
He said a more realistic figure would be about 40 percent less than that given by the state government.