KOTA KINABALU : Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun wants all the help he can get to drive Sabah tourism forward and he is right now thinking of all things Chinese.
Already on board the ministry is a new Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming, who according to Masidi was specifically picked to tap into the Chinese market.
It will make the job of reaching out to the vast Chinese market all the more easier, said Masidi who is buoyed by the more than 70 per cent increase in Chinese tourist arrivals over the last four months.
"Most of the tourists come from the southern part of China like Shenzen, Hong Kong.
I think now we are ready to expand to the more economically better Beijing market.
"This is because their economic standing means they can afford to travel more and at the same time, this can improve ties between us and China," he said during the Farewell/Welcoming Lunch to Outgoing/Incoming Assistant Tourism Ministers at Ming Garden here on Wednesday.
The ministry welcomed new Assistant Ministers Datuk Pang Yuk Ming and Datuk Kamarlin Ombi. The previous Assistant Ministers were Datuk Bobbey Ahfang Suan and Datuk Bolkiah Ismail.
Masidi also wants more Mandarin-speaking tourist guides to meet the expected increase in arrivals; more chartered flights and even Mandarin-speaking immigration officers at the airport to greet their arrivals.
"We have to adapt to the changes in the tourism industry. We used to have lots of tourists from South Korea and Japan, but now, the number of Chinese tourists has surpassed the number of tourists from those two other countries.
"We also have to remember that we are competing with other nations such as Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and even other states in this country," he said.
The appointment of Pang as assistant minister in the ministry is seen as a strategy by the State government to ensure that there is a political leader in the ministry who can communicate directly with officers or tourists from China.
"It is hoped that easier communication between us and them will make them more comfortable in dealing with us and at the same time, improve our competitiveness in the tourism industry.
"The whole idea is to make us more efficient so that we can make fast decisions," said Masidi.
A total of 103,917 Chinese tourists arrived in Sabah from January to April this year compared to 59,385 last year.
The increased number of chartered flights from 46 to 87 this year was attributed to the increased number of tourist arrivals.
The coming summer holiday is expected to bring in more tourists from that country in July and August via 36 chartered flights.
Sabah has seen a surge in tourist arrivals with 888,000 tourists from January to April this year compared to 793,842 last year including 630,520 domestic tourists. (DE)