KOTA KINABALU: Employment of locals in Sabah has to be among the top priorities of foreign and domestic investors here, says Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.
The Sabah Chief Minister said that with economic activities including tourism reviving in the state, the promise of returns and profit making were almost guaranteed.
However, he wished to also see that apart from monetary returns for these investors, their success also had to be measured in jobs created for Sabahans.
"I want to see that they are measured in jobs created for our people,” he said when officiating a new 250-room hotel - Holiday Inn Express Kota Kinabalu - here on Monday (Sept 26).
Hajiji said for a new hotel like Holiday Inn Express, he wanted to see that the impact is measured not only by the flow of visitors and their resources but also by the opportunity in hiring locals.
"And the key to this is that investments we bring in are measured in the motivating effect on other local enterprises besides seeing that their impact will ripple through the local communities," he said.
Earlier, in his opening speech, he said that Sabah’s tourism recovery plans and smart collaboration initiatives have seen a boost in tourist arrival and receipts.
Hajiji said Sabah welcomed 857,675 visitors as of July this year representing an increase of 632% compared with the same period last year with an estimated RM1.4bil in tourism receipts.
He said the increase was driven by the domestic tourism sector which contributed a total of 785,123 visitors, an increase of 582% from the same period in 2021.
He said in light of this development, Sabah was optimistic of receiving more than a million visitors this year.
"With the reopening of international borders, foreign tourist arrivals recorded significant growth with 72,552 arrivals, an increase of 3,680% for the first seven months this year,” Hajiji said.
He said air connectivity, both domestic and international, is on the upward trend with a total of 367 domestic flights with 60,162 seat capacity per week to Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Penang, Kota Baru, Terengganu, Labuan, Kuching, Miri, Sibu, Bintulu and Mulu available currently.
“For the international aviation sector, Sabah is now connected to five international destinations - Singapore, Bandar Seri Begawan, Incheon, Manila and Bangkok with a total of 39 flights per week and seat capacity of 7,016,” he said.
Hajiji said tourism recovery efforts such as the granting of incentives to international airlines and promoting collaborations between domestic players and airlines, tourism associations, and the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) have helped in this revival as well.
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said the state government charted a development plan and launched the Hala Tuju Sabah Maju Jaya (SMJ) Roadmap, outlining its vision, strategy and priorities for the next five years from 2021.
"It was to be a pivotal blueprint to bring Sabah into the next decade and to provide clarity on Sabah’s key focus areas, especially for businesses and investors resulting in high-impact multi-billion ringgit investments taking off,” he said.
"And the best news is that Sabah has raked in RM9.9bil worth of foreign investments from January to September this year, all achieved in the midst of the pandemic," said Hajiji.
The Chief Minister said most importantly these investments also produced a multiplier effect to boost the economy.
As more arrivals are expected into Sabah, the State Government is confident that there would be sufficient rooms with at least 11 new hotels being planned or built and to be completed in the next few years with an additional 3,500 rooms.
Earlier. Hajiji witnessed the handing over of a RM50,000 contribution from Chee Swee Cheng Group of Companies to the Tuaran Rumah Anak Yatim dan Miskin.