KOTA KINABALU 4/11/2012: The north Asia market, namely China and Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, remained as key market source for overall international arrivals into the state, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.
Speaking to reporters after launching the 15th Sabah Hospitality Fiesta 2012 at Karamunsing Complex yesterday, he said although the number of visitors to Sabah from January to September registered a marginal growth of only 0.1 per cent, international arrivals from the least expected countries, namely north Asia, had gone up.
“Compared to the same period in 2011, China and Hong Kong increased by 44.3 per cent from 103,340 to 149,104, while South Korea increased by 21.5 per cent from 48,439 to 58,871.
“Singapore increased by 12.8 per cent from 16,962 to 19,135, Indonesia by air increased by 81.9 per cent from 10,476 to 19,060, while Scandinavian countries namely Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden increased by 43.6 per cent from 4,436 to 6,368,” he said.
Masidi added that the UK and Ireland increased by 35.7 per cent, Germany by 74.1 per cent, France by 73.0 per cent, North America by 15.4 per cent and overall European countries by 45.6 per cent this year.
He admitted that Sabah expected to register a marginal increase which is less than the target set for this year due to the drop of seat capacity, and also competitive airfares for the peninsular outbound market.
“Seat capacity has gone down because it was taken by European countries who are using Kuala Lumpur to transit to Sabah. Apart from that, when direct flights from Perth and Japan to Kota Kinabalu were stopped, the Japanese and Australians were still coming to Sabah via Kuala Lumpur.
“When they take up the seats available from Kuala Lumpur to Sabah, there are less seats for domestic travelers. With the attractive cheap promotion packages overseas through Kuala Lumpur, West Malaysians prefer to travel outside Malaysia because the tickets are cheaper compared to flying to Sabah,” he said.
Masidi said it was something that the tourism industry in Sabah could not avoid because the airlines were in business.
However, despite the downtrend on international tourist arrivals, Masidi said it was surprising when arrivals from the least expected countries, especially north Asia, had gone up.
“Although the real numbers are small, it is a significant change of tourist arrival, and that is good for the industry. With the economic problem in North America and Europe, the trend still shows that the situation has not stopped people from traveling.
“The announcement of favorable news from airlines is hoped to improve the number of arrivals. Among the good news for the industry is the increase of direct flights from Hong Kong to Kota Kinabalu starting December — nine from Malaysia Airlines (MAS), 10 AirAsia and six Dragonair.
“Starting December also, we are looking at daily flights from Kota Kinabalu to Guangzhou and thrice weekly flights by MAS to Shanghai and Osaka. The airline is also finalizing the Kota Kinabalu to Tokyo flights,” he said.
Masidi added that with MAS’ decision to start its flight to Perth from Kota Kinabalu by end of December, it would be Sabah’s duty to ensure all seats were filled.
by Mariah Doksil