KUALA LUMPUR: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said Sabah is very much honoured to be selected as “Malaysia’s Favourite Destination” at the 47th edition of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Fair 2019.
He described the event as a great opportunity for Sabah to be promoted as a world-class premier eco-tourism destination and towards achieving our target of four million tourist arrivals in 2019, comprising 2.57 million domestic travellers and the rest from overseas.
“In 2018, Sabah tourism set a new record with the highest tourism receipts ever at RM8.34 billion on the back of a record-high 3.879 million arrivals, an increase of 6.6pc on tourism receipts and a 5.3pc increase on arrivals compared with 2017,” he said at the opening of Matta Fair 2019 at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), here, Saturday.
The text of his speech was read by his Deputy, Datuk Christina Liew who is also State Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment.
Shafie, who is also State Finance Minister, emphasised the importance of reinventing Sabah’s tourist attractions through continued investments in new attractions and infrastructure.
He congratulated MATTA under the leadership of Datuk Tan Kok Liang on putting together such a wonderful event to promote the tourism industry.
“I am glad to see that Sabah tourism has been proactive in implementing new products, enhanced services and productivity improvement.
“The Sabah State Government will continue to support in transformation efforts. We are also constantly reviewing our tourism strategies to see how we can further enhance Sabah’s attractiveness as a destination for different groups of visitors.
“We will continue to work hard and look for areas where we can improve and do even better,” he said.
Shafie added that in a highly competitive global tourism market, we need to offer attractive reasons for tourists to visit Sabah, and to return for subsequent visits after their initial experience in Sabah.
The CM also expressed the need to continue developing a vibrant events calendar to bring in more visitors to Sabah throughout the year. Key Sabah tourism events include KK Jazz Festival, Regatta Lepa-Lepa Semporna, Sabah Fest and Mt Kinabalu International Climbathon.
He reiterated that the Sabah State Government remains committed to growing our tourism sector to create economic opportunities for businesses and generate jobs for locals.
Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board (STB) Ken Pan Ying On led a delegation of 30 co-exhibitors comprising 25 tour operators, two dive operators, two hotels and one hotel association.
STB’s 16 booths showcased the State’s tourism products under the Sabah Pavilion ranging from heritage and culture, scenic island visits, scuba diving, jungle trekking, bird watching to adventure and other attractions that are top notch and considered to be good value for money.
One of the highlights of the Fair was the introduction of “Cuti-Cuti Tawau” to promote tourism in the East Coast of Sabah, taking visitors and tourists beyond the already popular Kota Kinabalu in the West Coast. Tawau is the gateway to the Eastern part of the State where the towns of Semporna, Lahad Datu and Sandakan are located.
“Sabah’s East Coast has many unique nature-based attractions as well as a historical heritage that is not found in the West Coast. There is also an island off Lahad Datu that is being promoted as the easternmost point of Malaysia where the ‘first sunrise’ of Malaysia can be witnessed,” Shafie said.
According to him, Tawau tourism packages, launched on July 13, 2018, are an initiative by Matta to promote the district as a tourism hub.
“Tawau has what it takes and the launch of the tourism packages will contribute to greater inbound and domestic tourism growth.”
Shafie asserted that it is vital for Sabah to forge strong partnerships with industry stakeholders and other tourism associations.
Earlier, the President of MATTA said domestic tourism is one of the key anchors in the tourism industry and contributes about 15pc to the national economy. “At the same time, domestic tourism provides employment opportunities to about 3.2 million people in Malaysia.”
Tan stressed that MATTA Fair encourages domestic travel by introducing new, attractive and fresh itineraries designed for special market needs such as adventure, sports, eco-tourism, luxury travel and cruise tourism in Malaysia.
“This Fair is a great opportunity for consumers to enjoy a great variety of value-for-money domestic and international tour packages at competitive prices,” he said.
Tan assured that as the leading and largest national travel association in Malaysia with over 3,500 members and growing, MATTA will continue to champion the tourism industry.
Meanwhile, the sales and services tax (SST), which was supposed to be implemented into the tour industry in 1st March 2019, will not be imposed.
Tan said he received verbal confirmation from the Finance Ministry that the SST will not be implemented until a better mechanism is thought out by the Royal Malaysian Customs Department.
“We thank the Finance Ministry for looking into this matter and we are in support of this decision.
We seek a fairer mechanism to be imposed as the tax would have had cascading effects on the industry,“ he said.
The SST, which was supposed to begin its implementation on tour agencies and travel companies, were to be taxed under tourism management services.
However, MATTA members have given feedback that the tax is fundamentally flawed and will create serious adverse implications to the tourism industry especially when the treatment details and mechanism of reporting are unclear.
Tan also said that the tour contracts that has been signed from March this year till the end of the year did not include any SST on its customers.
“It (charging SST) will double or triple the price of tour packages and make us be not so competitive in terms of pushing our products,“ he said.