KOTA KINABALU: European tourists will be Sabah’s focus as it consolidates on strong annual tourist arrivals from China.
The move is to further diversify its tourism market that was highly dependent on the thriving China tourist market, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew (pic).
Liew, who is state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, said that it was important to balance out the tourism market by encouraging more western tourists to visit the state.
“We will kick off our campaign to promote Sabah to other countries, starting with Germany in March.
“I will be leading a delegation to Berlin first and we will be visiting other European countries as well,” Liew told reporters on Thursday (Jan 17) after announcing that the state government’s Chinese New
Year open house would be held on Feb 5 in the Hakka Hall here.
“We are targeting more Europeans as we want to balance the numbers, not only increasing the number of Chinese tourists, but also American, European and Australian tourists, as well as those from Malaysia," she said.
Liew was confident that Sabah was in the right position to draw in European tourists as there was connectivity with Royal Brunei Airlines and China Southern Airlines flying direct to Sabah.
Dismissing claims that there was a drop in Chinese tourist arrivals in Sabah, she said that more then 500,000 tourists from China had visited Sabah last year, which surpassed the target.
“We have yet to compile the arrivals for December 2018,” she said, adding that Chinese tourists were no longer just staying in Kota Kinabalu but were travelling to other parts of the state including northern Kudat, eastern Sandakan and Tawau.
“Maybe people see fewer Chinese tourists in Kota Kinabalu and assume that there is a drop. They are coming and heading to other parts of the state,” she said.
Liew also said that the state was expecting a large number of tourists coming for the Chinese New Year season next month.
“Some of our top hotels are fully booked already,” she said, adding that Sabah receives some 117 direct flights from nine cities in China weekly.