By JONISTON BANGKUAI
LETTER: Sabah Tourism Board (STB) would like to respond to the article published in the Borneo Post on Thursday, May 4, 2017 with regards to the statement by SATTA President Winston Liaw pertaining to the tourism promotions carried out by STB in the China market. I feel that the comments or statement issued did not do justice to the hard work and effort done by STB in attracting the coveted Chinese outbound market.
First of all, Liaw have contradicted his earlier statement on 22 April, stating that he as the President of Sabah Tourism Federation (STF) speaking on behalf of the members did not agree to the proposed tourism tax bill.
Secondly, touching on the tourism promotion carried out by the State’s agency, I must say that Sabah has been on the forefront and leading in tourism promotion in China be it through traditional method or the highly acclaimed digital world we are in today. The results have been very apparent and evident from the tourism arrivals from China. In 2016, the arrivals from China registered a double digit growth of +51.8% with 374,939 pax or 1,027 Chinese tourists arriving at KKIA per day.
The growth is also a result of STB’s marketing and promotion strategy in focusing on increasing air accessibility into the State by attracting more foreign carriers to fly in/out of Kota Kinabalu. The short distance between the many southern Chinese cities from us is a great benefit that has been tapped by Sabah Tourism Board.
The continuous joint promotions and smart partnership with the airlines – foreign or domestic, has forged a strong bond in our tourism industry. Therefore, the private sectors ‘forking’ out money too has contributed to this success. Today, Kota Kinabalu alone is connected to six cities in China namely, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Wuhan, and Fuzhou.
Presently, including Hong Kong, KKIA receives 79 flights per week with 13,385 seats capacity per week or an average of 11 flights per day from China. The airlines serving these routes are 5 Chinese carriers and 2 Malaysians (Shanghai Airlines, Spring Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Xiamen Air, Dragon Air, Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia).
The support from the Malaysia Airport Berhad in marketing fund has also been fully applied to increase KKIA positioning in this region.
Our growth last year in arrivals was also contributed by the 183 charter flights from China from 14 cities bringing in about 21,500 pax.
Today, not only KK is benefiting from China market but the east coast islands are boasting high occupancy due to Chinese tourists too. Last year, 80.6% of total guests to the dive sites around Semporna consist of Chinese tourists.
With the current economic scenario experienced by the nation, not only Sabah, tourism promotions has been very costly. Therefore, STB has moved forward with a different strategy in marketing, the usage and advantage of the digital platform and social media is fully exploited by having our social media not only on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram but social media campaigns on Weibo and Wechat. This week alone we will be hosting six social media influencers from China totalling of over 1 million followers.
Last but not least, STB has been partnering with MyCEB to attract incentive groups from China. The first six months alone will see more than 11,000 arrivals from China for Incentive groups, the biggest number being the Perfect China and JM groups bringing about 3,000 pax each incentive group.
The State government has been very supportive in ensuring that STB has the means to promote and market Sabah to the world. The Chief Minister himself has recently congratulated the tourism players and Ministry for the effort seen in positioning Sabah as a premier destination for holiday makers to the country.
- Joniston Bangkuai is chairman of Sabah Tourism Board