The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the tourism sector, but it has also created a fantastic window of opportunity for reconsidering and reimagining the direction of the nation's tourism, according to Datuk Saraya Arbi, secretary-general of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (MOTAC).
The tourism sector needs to be more sustainable, inclusive, and shock-resistant because the pandemic and other crises will continue to derail its upward trajectory.
She claimed that the ministry has taken steps to promote eco-friendly travel, such as developing original experiences that drew on Malaysia's rich multiracial history, culture, and arts, as well as preserving the natural world and embracing green technology.
"When we discuss sustainability, we must relate it to the national (culture) we have. What we have in Malaysia has to be safeguarded, conserved, and maintained. In a press conference held following the start of the World Tourism Conference 2022 in this city today, she remarked, "We have to think of everything that we want to grow, take care of, and maintain it.
On behalf of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, the conference was opened by Sabah Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, who also serves as state Finance Minister II.
Datuk Jafry Ariffin, the Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment for Sabah, Harry Hwang, the Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific for the World Tourism Organization, and Noredah Othman, the CEO of the Sabah Tourism Board, were also in attendance.
The three-day conference, which is being organised by the ministry in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization and the government of Sabah, brings together 1,000 delegates from more than 60 countries to reconnect and assess efforts being made to recover the tourism industry in the wake of the global pandemic.
Saraya stated earlier in her address that experts have high hopes for the tourist industry despite severe global economic headwinds in 2023 and beyond, expecting sustained pent-up demand combined with new growth prospects and emerging niche markets due to the pandemic.
In contrast, Hajiji stated in his address, which was given by Masidi, that the Sabah government's efforts to empower local communities through the Community-based Rural Tourism programme have paid off, creating a vibrant industry.
According to Hajiji, rural tourism offers the chance to develop and enhance community-based tourism products through skill-upgrading and product development. The project has enhanced the state's tourism product options while also enhancing the communities' economic well-being.
He said that Sabah saw 1.2 million domestic and foreign visitors arrive between January and September of this year, bringing in an estimated RM2.1 billion for the sector.
According to Hajiji, Sabah will have an additional 24 international flights per week from Taipei, Narita, Busan, and Hong Kong between December 5, 2022, and January 1, 2023. This will increase the number of foreign seats by 52%.
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