KOTA KINABALU: The State Government is setting up a Sabah Convention Bureau  (SCB) that is expected to be operational by early next year, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri  Panglima Haji Hajiji Haji Noor. 

“The SCB is a much-needed facility to tap into tourism-based Business Events to further  make Sabah a preferred destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and  Exhibitions/Events. This will be a boost for tourism in Sabah,” he said at the official  opening of Hyatt Centric today. 

His speech was delivered by Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Industrial Development  Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Joachim Gunsalam. 

Hajiji was pleased to note that with all recovery efforts in place, Sabah has managed to  register 1.2 million domestic and international visitor arrivals from January to September  this year with an estimated tourism receipt of RM2.1 billion. 

“It is good news that Sabah will have additional 24 international flights per week beginning  5th December next month to 1st January next year from Taipei, Narita, Busan and Hong  Kong which will add 52 per cent to the current international seat capacity,” he said. 

With this latest development, the Chief Minister was confident that Sabah’s visitor arrivals  would surpass the 1.3 million target set for this year. 

“What all this means is that Sabah is open for business and for visitors. We are exploring  various ways to enhance our tourism, recognising its importance as an economic catalyst.  This will enhance our competitiveness as we want to ensure that Sabah remains one of  Malaysia’s favourite tourism destinations,” he said. 

Hajiji said new hotel developments such as the Hyatt Centric bode well for the tourism  industry which was the worst-hit sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Not only it has caused a drastic drop in tourist arrivals but also in all corresponding  businesses, big and small, he said, adding that for Sabah, this was close to near disaster  seeing that tourism generated the biggest revenue for Sabah pre-pandemic. 

However, the State Government did not let up in its efforts to manage the challenges and  in the short span of taking over the government administration, a state’s development roadmap to provide clarity on Sabah’s key focus areas, especially for businesses and  investors was formulated. 

“Tourism was one of the three key thrusts in addition to Agriculture and Industry. To  cushion the impact, we have this year dispensed RM227.4 million to the tourism sector to  support and revive the industry. 

“This included empowering local communities through participation in the Rural Tourism  Development Programme under the Sabah Tourism Board. Others were recovery  initiatives on international impactful high visibility, joint promotional destination campaigns  with industry and airlines as well as media Familiarisation programmes,” he said. 

Direct scheduled flights were re-instated as well as with established long-haul connectivity  and in addition, the Special Airlines Incentives to airlines were also introduced to  encourage airlines to resume international routes into Sabah. 

“As of this month, six airlines have resumed their international routes to Kota Kinabalu,”  he said. 

Hajiji also congratulated Hyatt for teaming up with Hap Seng to bring the Hyatt Centric  project to fruition. 

“Hyatt’s investment exemplified a bigger strategy and that is to make a sound investment  where it counts. To have another Hyatt landmark here in Kota Kinabalu is a boon as we  opened our borders not too long ago to visitors. I am sure many eager travellers will find  a niche in your modern vibrant lifestyle hotel,” he said. 

Hajiji said the State Government will continue its efforts to push the investment  momentum whereby the Malaysian Investment Development Authority or MIDA has listed  Sabah as having secured RM12 billion worth of foreign direct investments and RM942  million in domestic investments from January to October 2022.