Sabah sets out priorities

KUALA LUMPUR: Sabah has identified a raft of improvements to boost tourism including the establishment of a new cultural centre and a national park.

Attending the 47th MATTA consumer travel fair held in Kuala Lumpur at the weekend, Sabah’s deputy chief minister, Datuk Christina Liew, said new projects would be created in the state capital, Kota Kinabalu and in Tawau.

The deputy chief minister confirmed that the state would build a war memorial pavilion to honour soldiers who fought in World War II. In the long term, the memorial will be promoted for its historical significance.

Also, a new cultural centre showcasing the life and history of all 35 ethnic groups living in Sabah will be built in the capital. In Tawau, there are plans to establish a new national park and a sanctuary for protected species.

The state targets 4 million visitors this year, of which 2.57 million will be domestic tourists. In 2018, Sabah tourism earned MYR8.34 billion in tourism revenue from 3.9 million arrivals, an increase of 6.6% on tourism receipts and a 5.3% increase on arrivals year-on-year.

Organisers of the MATTA fair named Sabah “Malaysia’s Favourite Destination” for the second time after winning similar recognition at the September 2015 MATTA Fair.  The show is held biannually.

Sabah will continue to develop its events calendar to highlight the KK Jazz Festival, Regatta Lepa-Lepa Semporna, Sabah Fest and Mt Kinabalu International Climbathon.

Sabah Tourism Board led a delegation of 30 co-exhibitors comprising 25 tour operators, two dive operators, two hotels and one hotel association.

The Sabah Pavilion promoted heritage and culture, scenic island visits, scuba diving, jungle trekking, bird watching and adventure travel during the fair.

In addition to promoting Kota Kinabalu, the board is positioning Tawau as the gateway to the eastern part of the state where the towns of Semporna, Lahad Datu and Sandakan are located.

There is also an island off Lahad Datu that is now promoted as the easternmost point of Malaysia where the ‘first sunrise’ of Malaysia can be witnessed.

MATTA agents are promoting tour packages to Tawau to present it as a new tourism hub, mainly for domestic travellers.

MATTA, which organises the two travel fairs, held in March and September, has a membership of over 3,500 travel company members. 

The association recently confirmed that the introduction of a sales and services tax (SST), 1 March, was suspended. It said the Finance Ministry shelved the SST until a better mechanism could be identified.

The SST should have been levied on all transactions made through tour agencies and travel companies for tourism management services.

Tour contracts signed from 1 March this year through to the end of the year do not include any SST provision.

 However, the association continues to warn the government that SST would “double or triple the price of tour packages” and make Malaysia less competitive.