Knight Frank Malaysia: Sabah tourism, hotel and leisure industry players have to diversify

PETALING JAYA (April 23): The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted Sabah tourism industry players to rethink the importance of market diversification in tourist catchment to achieve sustainable growth going forward, said Knight Frank Malaysia (Sabah branch) executive director Alexel Chen.

In his report titled “Malaysia Commercial Real Estate Investment Sentiment Survey 2020”, he noted that the hotel and leisure sub-sector and its related services in Sabah had been hit hard since early this year, mainly due to the suspension of direct flights from China and South Korea.

Both China and South Korea contributed approximately 68% of the total international visitor arrivals of Sabah in 2019.

Sabah has been gaining prominence as one of Asia's most popular travel destinations with its rich natural endowments. The relatively short flight time to regional destinations and Sabah's friendly and warm populace are also added attractions.

The visitor arrivals to Sabah have shown an optimistic growth from 1.1 million to 4.2 million between 2002 and 2019 with the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9%.

Besides diversifying the tourist catchment to include the high-yielding tourist from Europe, the US, Australia and the UK, Chen added that the Sabah Tourism Board has also initiated multiple projects which include community-based tourism in rural areas.

“Other than leisure/eco-tourism, Sabah has also embarked on a new journey – the newly completed world-class Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) is poised to elevate the state as a preferred MICE destination,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state’s medical tourism industry is similarly growing from strength to strength, leveraging on quality and modern medical facilities and services at highly competitive prices.

Nevertheless, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic serves as a reminder to the relevant stakeholders that more effort and planning are needed to expedite the diversification to ensure the sustainable growth of the industry, said Chen.

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