Liew went to Australia to further promote Sabah

MELBOURNE: Sabah is a good destination for the Aussies as they love beaches and are raring to see our iconic wildlife, and sample food holidays, which Sabah offers plentifully, says Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew.

Liew, who is leading a Sabah Tourism Board (STB) delegation to Australia to further promote Sabah, stressed this after a business meeting with Malaysia Airlines Regional Manager for Australia, New Zealand and South West Pacific, Giles Gilbert at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, here, on Tuesday.

She said this year, Sabah Tourism is expanding to a wider audience in Australia with the “Feel Sabah – North Borneo” campaign, motivated by the growing number of Australians visiting Sabah after international borders had reopened.

“Based on statistics from STB Research Division, there were more than 7000 Australian arrivals to Sabah in the first five months this year (January-May 2023).”

Taking the cue from Gilbert on how to “sell” Sabah (as a holiday destination) in Australia, the Minister said there will be two main strategies in an upcoming action plan to lure more Aussies to visit The Land Below The Wind.

“Firstly, recognising that agents are a prime mover, we will provide agents’ education through online training and familiarisation (FAM) trips to Sabah. We will enhance the agents’ knowledge on Sabah so that they know our destination well and feel comfortable in introducing Sabah to clients. We will also encourage them to become ‘Sabah Specialist’ agents.

“We believe these initiatives will enable the agents or travel consultants to help ‘drive traffic’ to our website for the consumers to buy Sabah’s holiday packages (through a consumer campaign).

“The second strategy will be a free Borneo Side Trip (BST) offer to travellers, and our focus will be on the Australian market, primarily due to Malaysia Airlines’ direct connectivity from Australia to Kuala Lumpur. And understandably so, because ‘Sabah – North Borneo’ has the most appealing ‘products’ to the Australian and New Zealand markets,” Liew said in a statement on Thursday.

On the proposed complimentary side trip to Borneo, she said it would be alluring to the leisure market, and that STB would further discuss the matter with Malaysia Airlines to put the system in place.

“We will renegotiate with Malaysia Airlines to buy in our proposal and accept our contribution for BST focusing on the Australia and New Zealand markets. We hope Malaysia Airlines will consider offering a free ticket domestically (to discover the unique charms of Borneo) to travellers flying from Australia to Malaysia, and then beyond Malaysia to another international destination.

“In order to stay competitive and achieve our year’s target arrivals, we should aim to launch this initiative within these two months,” the Minister enthused.

On a similar note, Liew observed that there are at least three key market segments to target in Australia, namely Eco Tourism, especially from an environmental and sustainability-related perspective as well as cultural heritage tourism; Soft Adventure (Free Independent Travellers or FITs)/leisure segment; and Luxury/Beach Resorts (FITs/Family segment).

“I urge tourism players in Sabah to tap Australia’s potential for FIT tourism, among other segments, and to create attractive packages that appeal to families,” she said.

Meanwhile, in response to a question from the Minister, Gilbert said a clear decision is that the Kuala Lumpur-Brisbane route has been temporarily suspended due to lack of aircraft. “The route would be profitable today if we have the aircraft,” he added.

And currently, the focus is on Malaysia Airlines (MH) flying directly from major cities Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth into Kuala Lumpur.

The Sabah delegation comprises Assistant Minister cum STB Chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Datuk Sr. Mohd Yusrie Abdullah, STB Chief Executive Officer Noredah Othman as well as Ministry and STB officials.

Photos : Liew (centre) presenting a “Feel Sabah – North Borneo” promotional bag of Sabah souvenirs to Gilbert. Looking on from left are Mohd Yusrie, Joniston and Noredah.

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