KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s reputation as a friendly place is perhaps the main reason the Land Below the Wind is a top destination for tourists from neighbouring nations.
The state recorded its highest tourism receipts ever — at RM7.25 billion — in 2016.
It recorded 3.67 million arrivals last year, exceeding its target of 3.55 million, and expects to hit a higher amount of RM7.7 billion in receipts.
Aggressive marketing and promotion activities, as well as exciting and viable products, have been described as some of the contributors to Sabah’s success in the tourism sector.
But the more subtle factor — that is the kindness and hospitality that Sabahans are well-known for — could very well be the overarching reason tourists, especially from the neighboring region, keep coming to the Borneon state.
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who made a pre-Chinese New Year walkabout today at the Gaya Street fair, a famous Sunday market street in the heart of the capital city, called for Sabahans to forge a closer friendship.
He said friendship not only unites the people but also brings prosperity.
“I hope all of us will welcome the Chinese New Year season with joy and happiness and forge closer friendship with each other and people from other countries,” he told reporters before starting his walkabout.
“Today, our party PBS and other component parties are on the ground meeting with the people to forge a better friendship.
“I hope our love for the country, state and people will strengthen our image as a nation.
“Because of this, our tourism industry is improving and visitors, especially from China, Korea and Japan, keep coming to Sabah. This greatly helps our economy.”
Pairin, together with acting PBS president Maximus Ongkili and deputy president Yee Moh Chai and other party leaders, met hundreds of traders and visitors at the market street.
Pairin also chatted with many foreign tourists, whom the outgoing PBS president thanked for visiting Sabah and wished them an enjoyable stay.
The pre-Chinese New Year walkabout is an annual affair of the seasoned party and state leader.
“Today, we are meeting and greeting the people again, here at Gaya Street after visiting the Lido area in Penampang,” he said.
“We do this every year as a mark of respect for the people and the auspicious occasion.
“Hopefully, our brotherhood will be stronger.”
Pairin is expected to retire from politics to focus on his family and an upcoming book.
Responding to a question, Pairin said that all PBS candidates for the upcoming general election will be made known after nomination day.
“All candidates are confident of a win and all this is for the sake of the rakyat,” said Pairin, who declined to give details.