KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Tourism Board (STB) has launched its new tourism tagline for the state at an international travel event at Berlin on Tuesday (March 7).
The "Feel Sabah, North Borneo" promotion was unveiled at ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Borse) Berlin 2023, the world's leading travel trade show which will run until Thursday (March 9) at the Messe Berlin, Germany.
In a statement, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew, who is leading a 10-member delegation to the global event, said it was most apt to adopt this promotional theme for sentimental and historical reasons.
"We want the international community to know that Sabah is located in the northern part of Borneo Island in the hope of fascinating and wooing more European tourists, among others.
"The name 'North Borneo' sounds exotic and evokes nostalgic feelings of yearning for this destination.
"It is also of historical significance as Sabah was known as 'North Borneo' prior to gaining independence in 1963," she said.
According to Liew, people in many parts of the world reportedly are still not familiar with Sabah despite decades of promoting the "Land Below the Wind" to the outside world.
"However, we are aware that at the mention of Borneo or North Borneo, it rings a bell.
"Europeans in particular associate Sabah with Borneo.
"Hence, we are determined to rebrand this tourist destination with 'Feel Sabah, North Borneo' to create a new identity in the travel marketplace," Liew added.
Also in the Sabah delegation were her Assistant Minister and STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, the ministry's permanent secretary Datuk Mohd Yusrie Abdullah, STB chief executive officer Noredah Othman as well as the ministry and STB officials.
In relation to that, Liew said with the recent resumption of international direct flights and cruise tourism as well as optimistic outlook on mounting regular or chartered flights from new destinations, she said Sabah's target is having 2.2 million arrivals for 2023, but will still work towards attaining 2.5 arrivals.
"If we succeed in hitting the 2.5 million mark, this would indicate an increase by 45.35% compared with 1.72 million arrivals in 2022," she added.
According to STB statistics, Sabah recorded 4,195,903 arrivals in 2019 prior to the global Covid-19 outbreak, where 1.4 million are international arrivals and 2.7 million are domestic/Malaysian tourists.
Based on the STB's 2019 data, Sabah's main market of international tourists are from Taiwan, China, Brunei, Singapore and South Korea.
"For Europe specifically, our top inbound tourism markets are from Germany, France, Netherlands and Italy," she added.
Plans are also afoot to explore prospects of luring more tourists from new tourism markets in America, Australia, Japan and India via tourism roadshows by STB, she added.