Sabah Tourism's North Borneo tagline catchy but highlight national identity too, says envoy

Liew (second from left) presenting promotional materials to Zakri with (L-R) Mohd Yusrie, Bangkuai and Phillipps looking on.

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian High Commissioner to the UK Datuk Zakri Jaafar has given his seal of approval to Sabah’s new tourism tagline of “Feel Sabah, North Borneo”.

Saying it was catchy, Zakri also expressed his view that there was a need to highlight the fact that Sabah was part of Malaysia and would always be there.

“With this, there will be no question about where Sabah belongs,” he said in a statement issued by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew’s office here on Tuesday (March 14).

Zakri said this during a dinner hosted by Liew in London on Saturday (March 11).

The minister was in England after launching the state’s new destination branding at the ITB Berlin 2023 international tourism fair in Berlin, Germany recently.

Zakri nonetheless said the “Feel Sabah, North Borneo” branding might bring people from the UK to Sabah out of nostalgia, as it was known as North Borneo during the colonial days.

“Maybe they know North Borneo more than they know Sabah,” he added.

Asked on the role played by the Malaysian High Commission in London in promoting travel to Sabah, he said they had always worked with Tourism Malaysia to promote the whole of Malaysia as a destination, Sabah and Sarawak in particular.

“This is because these two states can offer the things tourists from here (UK) are looking for.

“Eco-tourism is a new sector that people from this part of the world are really looking forward to,” the High Commissioner explained.

Eco-tourism in Borneo, according to Zakri, could even become a preferred choice not only for individual travellers but also for families.

“That's how we (the High Commission), together with Tourism Malaysia, are promoting Borneo,” he said.

Also present among the Sabah delegation were state Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai and ministry permanent secretary Datuk Mohd Yusrie Abdullah.

Sandakan-born ecologist Quentin Phillipps, who attended the dinner with his wife Honor, presented two of his books to Liew.

These are the Third Edition of Phillipps' Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo (Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan) and the Second Edition of Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology.

“Each book (represents) at least two years' work, with illustrations by my sister Karen,” said the 72-year-old author, who has been interested in the wildlife and natural history of Sabah from a young age.

The books list out all 673 Borneo bird species, including 61 Borneo endemics, Borneo's top 90 birding sites and 16 orang utan watching sites.

On why birds fascinated him, Phillipps said there was always something interesting going on to understand how they lived and survived in a hostile environment.

“Everything is out to kill the birds. They eat them, some birds are eager to eat other birds. And all the animals, cats and whatever, are trying to catch the birds,” he said.

Liew was happy to learn that Phillipps will spend about a month from July visiting the Tawau Hills Park, Kalabakan and Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah on a fig-planting mission.

He had divided his time between Sabah and the UK after his university days in England until the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I couldn't travel for three years. I am going back to Sabah this year," said Phillipps, who has spent at least 30 years in Borneo.

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