KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government is committed to restoring and developing the tourism sector through various programmes next year, as evidenced from the RM134.59mil allocation to the state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry in next year's budget.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said the allocation would include upgrading tourism facilities and human capital development for Community Based Tourism (COBT).
"I have also announced that the Sabah Convention Bureau (SCB) will be set up and operational by next year.
"The SCB will accelerate the growth of the tourism industry through tourism-based business events to make Sabah a preferred destination for meeting, incentive, conference and exhibition (MICE) events that will generate economic activities for the benefit of the hospitality, logistics, aviation and other related sectors," he said at the opening of the World Tourism Conference (WTC) 2022 at the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) here on Monday (Nov 28).
His speech was delivered by state Local Government and Housing Minister/Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.
Hajiji said the WTC’s theme “Tourism Futures Reimagined” was timely and apt.
"Since opening our borders on April 1 this year, Malaysia, and Sabah for that matter, have been relentless in our pursuit of speeding up our growth and development, particularly in progressing tourism.
"I am happy to know that in-person participation at this conference will put many heads together to address tourism futures and strategies driving tourism’s recovery and resilience post-pandemic," he said.
The Chief Minister said that although Sabah’s tourism was the worst affected sector this past two years, the state government did not let up in its efforts to manage the challenges.
"The Sabah government dispensed a good budget to cushion the impact and to ensure the healthy development of our tourism industry seeing that tourism generated the biggest revenue for Sabah pre-pandemic.
"I am happy to say that our efforts to empower local communities through the community-based rural tourism Programme have borne fruits.
“It is a thriving sector as we continue to see its steady growth throughout Sabah,” Hajiji said.
He added that rural-based tourism provided the opportunity for the state to grow and improve community-based tourism products through upskilling and product enhancement.
"This initiative has not only increased the state’s tourism product offerings but also improved the economic livelihood of the communities," he said.
He also hoped the participants would take time off to experience the ongoing community-based tourism roadshow showcasing the rich cultural diversity of the state’s 27 districts and 11 sub-districts being held at the sidelines of this conference.
Hajiji said the fact that Sabah has managed to register 1.2 million domestic and international visitor arrivals between January and September this year, with an estimated tourism receipt of RM2.1bil, was a good sign indeed.
Hajiji disclosed that from Dec 5, 2022, until Jan 1, 2023, Sabah would have additional 24 international flights per week from Taipei, Narita, Busan and Hong Kong which will add 52% to the current international seat capacity.