Association - Sabah Tourism Board
THE SABAH TOURISM Board (STB) was formerly known as Sabah Tourism Promotion Corporation (STPC) and is an agency of the Sabah State Government. It is primarily responsible for marketing and promoting tourism for the State. First established in 1976, STB was re-established as a statutory agency in November, 1985 and now comes under the remit of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Environment, Sabah.
Today, STB constitutes five major operational areas: Marketing Division, Research Division, Product Division, Finance & Corporate Services Division, and Support Services Division. The reactivation of its wholly-owned subsidiary company, Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn. Bhd. has enabled STB to reorganise and focus its main activities on tourism marketing, promotion and research.
Christina Liew of the Sabah Tourism Board introduced the Association, its aims, and its initiative in line with the State's overriding missions.
Christina Liew (CL): Since the beginning, Sabah Tourism's aim was to promote Sabah as a premier destination for nature and adventure in the region. The State has an abundance of attractions that are nature-based, and the Ministry under Sabah Parks (established in 1964) is responsible for developing these hotspots as conservation centres that would attract tourism in the long run. We are very proud to say that Sabah is at the forefront of conservation policies for the country. For example, Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, was gazetted in 1964, the same year Sabah Parks was set up. The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is the first marine park in Malaysia set up in 1974.
Newer products were introduced over the years, however both the marine and Kinabalu parks are the most frequented attractions for foreign and local tourists until today. Conservation remains the key theme for Sabah.
Recently, Sabah Tourism introduced the Rural Tourism programme, an extension of nature-based tourism focusing on communities in rural areas and their lifestyles. Rural Tourism coined the tagline ‘lung-cleansing' to suggest activities and tours done at lush areas where the air is clean and rejuvenating.
Sabah is also known for fresh seafood for Northern Asia markets. Food is slowly becoming the main attraction for younger travellers.
Asia Outlook (AsO): How would you say Sabah Tourism Board has developed in recent years as a business travel hub and what are the key reasons behind its growing appeal?
CL: Up to today, air travel accessibility has increased, especially connecting to Kota Kinabalu. There are more than 180 flights connecting the Kota Kinabalu International Airport to 19 international destinations. Sandakan and Tawau are also receiving direct flights from Kuala Lumpur for visitors who are keen to visit places like Sepilok and Kinabatangan as well as diving off the islands of Semporna.
Sabah as a cruise destination is being slowly recognised although the cruise terminal port has not been renovated and modernised.
Today, the tourism industry is the third biggest income earner for Sabah. In 2017, total arrivals grew 10 percent to 3.684 million or an estimated RM7.829 billion in receipts.
A number of chain hotels are opening in Sabah due to the stable Government and investor-friendly environment. Hilton and Mecure Kota Kinabalu are now operational with Marriott joining the market very soon.
The business sector is eagerly waiting the completion of the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) due in early 2019. Sabah is already receiving large incentive groups, and with the SICC, Sabah will be able to formerly hold business tourism events.
AsO: What is in store for Sabah over the course of 2018 and beyond to continue the good work already commenced and to enhance its reputation as a tourism and business travel hub further in the future?
CL: For 2018 we will look into new areas. We have plans for developing tourism products for Tawau, which has been a stopover town all these years for visitors to go to Semporna and the islands for diving. We will also be looking at maintenance or upgrading of our basic facilities in public areas, especially airports. We would like to give a very good first impression for visitors when they land.
We would also be focusing on conservation issues such as the status and long-term planning of our large Bornean mammals. After all, Sabah is known for conservation since the very beginning.
AsO: Finally, what progress and development would you hope and expect to be able to report back in the future, both in regard to the Sabah Tourism Board as an entity, and to the business travel industry in Sabah as a whole?
CL: I would like to see growth in the markets, especially the long-haul markets, so they grow alongside the arrivals coming from China. I would also like to see the creation of newer tourism hotspots, especially on the East Coast of Sabah.