Tourism board on quest to bring more Aussie tourists to Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is set to participate in a host of travel-related events in Australia in order to position the state as a desirable destination for Australians.

Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said Sabah and Australia have always had a positive connection with one another and have been working together to boost their respective tourism industries.

“It has long been a goal of the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) to increase Australian arrivals and we have always been conducting roadshows to pique Australians' interest in travelling to Sabah,” he told reporters when met at the Sandakan Memorial Park in the state’s east coast on Monday (Aug 15).

“STB will be participating in a couple of roadshows soon organised by the Tourism, Art, and Culture Ministry in major cities in Australia to continue building awareness on Sabah as a destination,” he added.

Bangkuai was speaking in reference to the Tourism Malaysia Oceania Roadshow that will be taking place from Aug 21 to 26 in the Australian cities of Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney.

Bangkuai, who is the STB chairman, was in Sandakan to represent the Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor at the annual Sandakan Memorial Day service, which pays tribute to Australian and British servicemen who lost their lives in the death march during World War II.

The service also honours local unsung heroes who gave their lives in service to the Allied troops.

Present were Australian Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Matt Keogh and his delegates; British High Commissioner to Malaysia Charles Hay; and Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia, Dr Justin Lee, among others.

Bangkuai said the participation of the Australian ministerial delegation is evidence of the strong ties that exist between Sabah and Australia.

He also believed momentous events such as the Sandakan Memorial Service will serve to enhance the already existing relationship between the two governments and help stimulate tourism.

Meanwhile, Keogh’s visit to Sabah was his first official international engagement since taking office in June this year.

“I am grateful for the opportunity this visit has given me to discover more about common heritage and to better explore this fantastic part of Malaysia, its culture and history,” he said.

On Sunday (Aug 14), Keogh and his delegates arrived at Sandakan where they took the opportunity to explore the town and some of its tourism attractions, with the Sandakan Municipal Council playing host.

Keogh praised Sabah for the incredible tourism opportunity it presented with attractions such as the Sandakan Memorial Park, as well as nature-based tourism and wildlife-based tourism, all of which would appeal to Australians.

Meanwhile, Keogh was given a glimpse of old Sandakan by the Sandakan Heritage Trail group headed by its chairman Lai King Hang on Sunday.

Keogh made a brief stop at the Heritage Steps near the Sandakan Municipal Council Square, accompanied by other senior officials.

Lai introduced the delegation to, among others, the JCI Clock Tower en route to the trail which was designed by prominent (now retired) architect Datuk Francis Wong, the father of Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong, whose family originated from Sandakan.

The Sandakan Heritage Trail connects 10 important heritage sites within a leisurely walking distance of around two hours.

Guided by maps and signage along the route, visitors can explore and re-imagine pre-war Sandakan and the stories of yesteryear.

One of the most notable buildings is St Michael's and All Angels Church, of which construction began in 1893 and ended in 1906.

The newest addition to the church is the beautiful and unique stained glass windows which were unveiled in 2005.

The commemorative window known as “The Window Of Rememberance” was dedicated to the memory of the Australian and British soldiers who died at the Mile 8 prisoner-of-war camp and on the subsequent death marches to Ranau.

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