Sabah’s mission to be preferred destination for major expositions

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will aggressively promote itself as the preferred choice for business event organisers to stage large-scale expositions and trade shows.

Assistant Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said the interest from the market players to hold their big shows in the state was growing.

He said such heightened interest must be treated as a call for the industry players to identify big events that Sabah could play host to.

“For years, the state had been doggedly promoting Sabah’s natural and cultural beauty. We have brought recognition to Sabah for its magnificent Mount Kinabalu, its flora and fauna, and its underwater splendour,” said Bangkuai.

He added that a goal of the Sabah government is to expand the state's presence in the business events market.

“I must say that the Sabah International Convention Centre has paved the way for the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) to expand this offering, giving our convention centre a competitive advantage in hosting large business or MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) events,” he said.

Bangkuai was speaking at the Tourism Malaysia engagement session with Sabah tourism industry players here on Thursday (July 7).

The session, among others, was aimed at providing Sabah tourism stakeholders with information about upcoming Tourism Malaysia international programmes.

Bangkuai, the STB chairman, noted that the business event market was another potential source of domestic and international tourists to the state.

He said the ministry and STB received several requests or expressions of interest from event players to conduct conferences or exhibitions in Sabah.

Bangkuai said that the most recent is the Asia Dive Expo or Adex, which is scheduled for next year.

“This is indeed an excellent opportunity, and we should be excited because this will be Malaysia's first Adex, with Sabah as the host. I'm sure the diving community and businesses are excited about this,” he said.

“Certainly, we will need the cooperation of Tourism Malaysia in promoting such an exhibition to the international market when this takes off, and collaboration with the STB and local industry players is essential,” he added.

Bangkuai also said the STB was constantly identifying new tourism products that were unique to Sabah and may pique the interest of visitors from the world over.

“The continuous promotion of Sabah as a preferred destination not only for leisure but business travelling, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been progressing well.

“This can be seen with the reopening of direct routes from major international cities and it bodes well for our hopes of a full recovery sooner than expected.

“Having said that, we also want to promote Sabah to long-haul markets and we need Tourism Malaysia's help in identifying potential routes and building demand from specific markets,” he said.

Since the reopening of Malaysia’s border on April 1 this year, Sabah has flights coming in from Manila, Singapore, Bandar Seri Begawan, Bangkok, Incheon, and soon from Busan.

Meanwhile, in order to prepare industry players with required skills to organise significant events, Bangkuai said a Congress Certification Programme 2.0 Advance Masterclass was conducted recently and 22 participants were certified.

So far, 88 individuals had been certified, he said, adding that part of STB's business events goal was to train 200 people by 2025.

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