Communities at the centre of Sabah Tourism promotion

Sabah Tourism in East Malaysia was among the three Malaysian States present at ITB Asia. For Noredah Othman, General Manager Sabah Tourism, the State presence at the show was important in order to meet regional as well as Australian buyers.

“European arrivals are stagnating as we lack direct flights to Kota Kinabalu. International arrivals are mostly driven by strong growth from both China and South Korea. Sabah is turning into a very attractive destination for both markets due to their close proximity. With China we have some 100 weekly flights,” Othman explains.

China is generating over 35% of all foreign arrivals and the growth continues this year unabated. “Chinese travellers are generating revenues for many of our communities, especially for East Coast destinations,” Othman adds. Most of the Chinese travellers stay in Kota Kinabalu and the islands far from the regional capital city or along the East Coast.

Empowering communities is turning into an important tool for tourism marketing in the State. “We feel that tourism belongs to local people. We have 26 districts in Sabah and we created a Tourism Action Committee in each of them. The TAC identifies the tourism product and we then help them to market it to the right target, help local people understand tourists’ expectations and manage their tourism activities properly,” describes Noredah Othman.

This strategy towards local communities is paying off. According to Othman, positive results have been registered in areas such as the Kadamaian area in Kota Belud, now well known for water adventure and rafting; Kiulu in Tuaran which developed farmstays; or Ranau with rafting products.

Photo: Noreda Othman, General Manager, Sabah Tourism