KOTA KINABALU: Sabah last year received the highest tourism receipts in its history – at RM8.342bil – and a record-high 3.879 million arrivals.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said figures showed that from January to December, total arrivals grew by 5.3% while tourism receipts increased by 6.6% compared with the figures in 2017.
The total gross international arrivals recorded a double-digit increase of 10.2% while domestic arrivals increased by 2.8%, said Liew, quoting statistics compiled by the Sabah Tourism Board under her Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry.
Liew said China surpassed the half million mark with a total of 593,623 visitors to Sabah last year.
The second highest source of arrivals was still South Korea with an increase of 8.5% or a total of 337,100 visitors while the Singapore market grew by 9.1% last year, she added.
“I am very pleased with our performance in 2018. It was a very good year for Sabah. As of today, we are now connected to 26 international destinations by 12 foreign carriers.
“We will be emphasising more domestic tourism since we have opened up many new tourism areas in the state’s interior and the east coast,” she said yesterday.
Liew also said there were currently 444 flights connecting Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Labuan to Sabah, with a seat capacity of close to 75,000 weekly, which reflected the potential for pushing domestic tourism further.
Last year, Liew noted that 19 more new direct international flights commenced services to Sabah, including the reinstatement of the Kota Kinabalu–Bangkok flight by Thai AirAsia.
Besides the direct flights, the rest of the services connected Sabah to international cities such as Beijing, Xiamen, Fuzhou (Xiamen Air), Singapore and Wuhan (Malindo Air), Shenzhen (China Southern Airlines, AirAsia), Macau and Kunming (AirAsia) and Muan (Jeju Air).
Tawau, too, is expanding its connectivity with a direct flight to Kuching.
Last year was also significant for charter flights as Sabah airports (KKIA and Sandakan) welcomed a total of 343 non-scheduled flights compared with 215 the year before, she said, adding that the charter flights brought passengers from China, South Korea and Japan.