KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s target to get its tourism industry to bounce back could be given a boost with the addition of tourists from Uzbekistan.
A group of travel agents from the central Asian nation are in the state to experience first-hand what the state has to offer.
The Malaysia-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce vice-president Dilsod Elmuradov said the travel agents are looking to collaborate with the Sabah Tourism Board to enhance promotion and campaign efforts.
He conveyed their intention during a meeting with Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, on Wednesday (Nov 1).
Present at the meeting were Sabah Tourism Board's deputy chief executive officer Julinus Jimit; Uzbek’s Exclusive Travel founder Gulnova Hodjaeva, along with its director, Barno Omonova; Avantgarde Group representative Shahzod Pulatov; and Sabah’s Fun Holiday managing-director Connie Chong.
This marks the Uzbek group's inaugural visit to Sabah, where they plan to spend five days exploring various destinations on the west coast.
Elmuradov highlighted their keen interest in promoting Sabah and their goal to experience the region's popular products, gearing up for the Tashkent International Tourism Fair scheduled from Nov 15 to 17.
"We are committed to showcasing Kota Kinabalu. During our stay, we will also be conducting inspections of medium and high-end hotels in the Kota Kinabalu area," he said.
The group will be visiting, among others, the Mari-mari cultural village, white water rafting and camping sites in Kiulu, firefly and proboscis monkey tours, as well as going on an island-hopping excursion at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.
With Batik Air launching a direct route from Tashkent to Kuala Lumpur on Dec 8, the delegation harbours high expectations for Sabah as a sought-after destination for Uzbeks during the winter season.
The group said Sabah seemed to tick all the boxes on their list of must-have experiences, including beaches, islands, wildlife, rivers, and family getaways.
Bangkuai, who is also Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister, welcomed the collaborative efforts of the Uzbek travel agents and encouraged them to submit a formal proposal to the Sabah Tourism Board.
He said the fact they were showing interest in assisting in promoting Sabah highlights the positive development stemming from the Sabah tourism entourage’s recent visit to Uzbekistan for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly last month.
“The board welcomes any proposal that brings benefits to the state, and we hope to see this partnership come to fruition.
“This collaboration not only opens doors to the diverse and vibrant culture of Sabah but also paves the way for an increase in tourism, benefiting both parties involved,” he added.