Sabah Worried to be Unprepared to Face an Influx of Chinese Tourists

Kota Kinabalu aerial view

The State of Sabah in East Malaysia is turning increasingly into a hot destination for travellers, especially from Mainland China. Federation of Sabah Industries (FSI) President Datuk Mohd Basri Abdul Gafar highlighted that Sabah welcomed in 2016 already three million tourists per year (international and Peninsular Malaysia) of which 370,000 were from Mainland China. So far this year, the total number of tourists to Sabah reached 2,431,107 from January to August, a number up by 14.3% compared to the same period of last year. Chinese arrivals jumped by 25% to reach almost 300,000 visitors during the same period. China should be close to the 500,000 mark by the end of the year. Korean arrivals are also sky rocketing, up by 65% between January and August.

FSI President indicated however that the State Budget 2018 should have a higher allocation for the tourism industry, especially as “Sabah Chief Minister also mentioned that a tourism firm in China is planning to bring one million tourists to our State. In that sense, tourism is crucial to Sabah and hopefully the budget will allocate a portion for the industry,” he said during the Pre-Budget 2018 Dialogue at University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) yesterday.

Investments will be need to enhance tourist facilities. Gafar pinned his hope that the newly introduced tourism tax would help financing investments for the travel and tourism industry. “We need this for development, we need incentives for tourism-related business activities. Imagine one million tourists coming over from China, we will need more hotels, food outlets and more tourism-related areas. I am for example surprised by the small number  of Duty Free Shops as compared to other Malaysian states. So I hope there should be more in the city for the tourists to enjoy”.

More funds should be also channeled to infrastructure which are necessary to accompany tourism. “One example would be electricity. My home experienced multiple power outages and the people in Sabah are experiencing five times worse than other places, so we must address this issue. I also hope that we will have more funds for our road infrastructure such as the Pan Borneo Highway”, he added.

International Arrivals to Sabah from January to August 2017:

Total arrivals   2,431,107    +14.3%

Asia                      724,247    +20.2%

China                   296,441    +24.8%

South Korea       196,895     +65.4%

Indonesia              75,412      -27.8%

Brunei                   52,636      -3.4%

Taiwan                  41,968      +20.7%

(Data from Research Division Sabah Tourism)

(Partial source: The Daily Express)