Sabah tourism players are urging the government to establish direct flights with Gulf countries to attract more visitors to the state.
The move comes after several travel agencies from Sabah participated in the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023, held at the Dubai World Trade Centre in the United Arab Emirates.
Funholiday’s managing director, Connie Chong, said the need for direct flight connectivity is crucial to entice tourists from the Gulf countries, who have expressed interest in exploring the state.
Sabah’s natural beauty, diverse cultures, and ethnicities are regarded as a hidden gem for Middle Eastern tourists to discover, she added.
Sabah, she said which boasts a year-round moderate climate, is an ideal destination for those seeking a respite from the scorching summer heat.
“Middle Eastern tourists also love to indulge in outdoor adventure activities such as jungle trekking, river rafting, and wildlife watching,” said Connie.
The Arabian Travel Market is a prestigious four-day (May 1-4) event that saw over 2,000 exhibitors and some 34,000 attendees from over 150 countries.
The Malaysian delegation, comprising 76 organisations, including the Sabah Tourism Board, attended the event to attract more Middle Eastern tourists to Malaysia.
Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan said, “In line with Visit Malaysia in 2025, Tourism Malaysia will strive to attract more tourists from the Middle East to Malaysia.
“We are confident that we will achieve our target to put Malaysia as the top destination for Muslim travellers.”
Malaysia recorded a total of 10,070,964 tourist arrivals and RM28.2 billion in tourist receipts in 2022, surpassing its initial target of 9.2 million international tourist arrivals.
In 2023, Malaysia aims to welcome 16.1 million international tourist arrivals, including 300,000 tourists from West Asia, and generate RM49.2 billion in tourist receipts.