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Kota Kinabalu, Dec 9: Sabah would be stepping up efforts to lure Indian tourists given they represent the fastest-growing outbound market.
Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said the state’s tourism industry was overly dependent on Chinese visitors before the pandemic and that it must now diversify its customer base.
“Sabah is recognised for its nature-based tourism, but we also offer upscale products and one-of-a-kind travel experiences that would be of appeal to visitors from India. They are big spenders, so we want to draw them in.
“In fact, over 6,000 Indian visitors came to Sabah pre-pandemic in 2019, showing a clear interest in visiting the region. While the number is modest, it is still quite promising.
“Be assured that the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) is actively pursuing the Indian market, and we hope to see a steady increase in arrival in the coming year.
“I am sure direct linkages between India and Sabah will be established in the future once there is a rise in the number of Indian visitors,” he said.
On another note, STB also said that it would work closely with academic institutions to help rural tourism grow.
Bangkuai said STB and tourism players could benefit greatly from the university’s studies of rural tourism.
He also said STB could be of significant assistance to academicians in their studies to better grasp the topic at hand and identify collaborative solutions to the industry’s problems.
Bangkuai, who is also chairman of STB, was speaking at the Community Based Tourism Symposium (CBTS) 2022, themed ‘Rural Tourism Prosperity: Transforming the Well-Being of Local Communities’ at the Azman Hashim UMS Gallery here, on Friday.
This symposium was co-organised by the varsity’s Borneo Tourism Research Centre (BTRC); Faculty of Business, Economics and Accountancy; and Sabah Tourism Board.
It was supported by the Federation of Rural Tourism Association Sabah and the Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research (ATLAS Asia).
In this speech, Joniston also shared about STB’s pioneering efforts in community-based tourism through its project division and the subsequent success of this initiative since its inception in 2014.
He also called on stakeholders to continue playing their role to help position Sabah as the top sustainable and innovative rural tourism destination.
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