‘The growth from India is a good indicator of the interest for Sabah’
Sabah Tourism is keen to get a share of the Indian outbound pie, and is hopeful that the Tourism Malaysia e-learning programme will assist in driving destination awareness among the travel trade in India. Sabah Tourism Board spoke to TravelBiz Monitor about their key attractions and outreach in India.
Q. Based on 2019 data, Sabah’s top feeder markets were Taiwan, China, Brunei, Singapore and South Korea. What is your plan to put India on that list? Do you think the current e-learning programme will help you in this direction?
Indian arrivals to Sabah increased in numbers before the Covid-19 pandemic, with 5,606 Indian visitors registered in 2018 and 6,548 in 2019.
In 2020, the number of Indian arrivals in Sabah was at 1077, and 332 in the following year. In 2022, Indian arrival in Sabah increased to 3987. The positive growth is a good indicator of interest to travel to this region.
Since after Sabah Tourism Board’s recent participation in the Tourism Malaysia and Malaysian Association of Tour And Travel Agents (MATTA) roadshow to India in January to February this year across Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and New Delhi, Indian tour agents that were met, who had been sending clients to other Malaysian states numerous times, are now introducing Sabah as a new holiday destination and hidden jewel of Malaysia to the Indian market.
With the current Online Training Program, valuable information can be provided to the B2B segment, such as the attractions, culture, activities, and experiences that Sabah can offer to the Indian market. It can further showcase the beauty of the destination, highlight unique experiences, and educate potential tourists/agents about what Sabah has to offer.
Q. Tell us how natural wonders such as Mount Kinabalu, Maliau Basin, and Tip of Borneo.
Mount Kinabalu, Maliau Basin, and the Tip of Borneo are amazing natural wonders based in Sabah, North Borneo, each offering unique tourist experiences.
Here’s how they differ:
1. Mount Kinabalu: As one of the highest peaks in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu (4,095m) attracts adventure-seekers and nature lovers. Climbing this majestic mountain offers stunning scenery, diverse ecosystems, and a sense of accomplishment for the climbers. It’s a challenging but rewarding experience, allowing visitors to witness the sunrise from the summit and observe various flora and fauna at higher altitudes. It is also where the world’s highest Via Ferrata is located.
2. Maliau Basin: Known as the “Lost World of Sabah,” Maliau Basin is a pristine rainforest wilderness. It offers a more immersive and in-depth nature experience. Visitors can take guided hikes, explore its extensive trail network, and encounter rare wildlife species. Maliau Basin allows for a quieter and more secluded adventure surrounded by natural wonders. The terrain is tough and generally requires visitors to embark on a hiking and camping excursion for a minimum of 4 days in its primary forest.
3. Tip of Borneo: Situated in the northernmost part of Sabah, the Tip of Borneo offers a unique coastal experience with a blend of natural beauty and cultural diversity. Visitors can relax on white sandy beaches, marvel at stunning sunsets, and explore nearby villages such as the Honey Bee Farm, Gong-Making Village, and the Rungus Longhouse. The area is also home to ethnic communities with rich traditions, making it an opportunity to learn more about local cultures.
Q. Which are some of the traveller segments that Sabah Tourism Board (STB) is targeting in India?
Sabah Tourism Board is looking to tap into the Indian tourism market, particularly for destination weddings, and MICE groups, as Indian tourists love Sabah’s beaches, islands, resorts, diving, wildlife, and cultures. Sabah has hosted approximately 9 Indian weddings in Kota Kinabalu within a span of 3 years pre-pandemic. We also received a Golf group from India in May after a successful meeting between golf operators at SATTE 2023 in India during February.
Q. What are the recent steps have you taken on the sustainable tourism front?
Sabah has always been involved in conservation and working with the communities on rural tourism – For information, Sabah will play host to the inaugural ADEX Ocean Partnership Summit, from August 18-20 at the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC). The summit will feature global experts and trailblazers to discuss and explore diving disciplines, ocean conservation, and sustainability issues while offering a platform to connect and network not just with Tourism industry players, but also with the conservation and education segment.
Q. The Indian market offers huge potential to every tourism board, keeping this in mind, does STB have any specific strategy for this market?
Sabah Tourism Board will continue to work closely with Tourism Malaysia, tour agents and airlines to expand indirect passenger traffic to Sabah. Currently, Indian tourists can travel to Sabah via Singapore, with 21 flights weekly to Kota Kinabalu, and via Kuala Lumpur, 164 weekly connecting flights to Kota Kinabalu.