Rainforests Sabah’s star attraction

July 8, 2008 at 6:14 am Leave a comment

SANDAKAN: Sabah’s rainforests and wildlife are attractions that can help to boost the tourism industry and increase revenue.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the state’s natural tourism products, especially the eco-tourism sites here and on the lower Kinabatangan floodplain, were attracting tourists from all over the world.

Azalina, who spent the weekend visiting eco-tourism sites in this east coast town and Kinabatangan, said tourism players in Sabah were fortunate, compared to their colleagues in states which do not have so many natural products.

She said wildlife such as orang utan, proboscis monkeys, Borneo pygmy elephants and exotic birds have turned this east coast town into an eco-tourism destination of choice for travellers from as far away as the United Kingdom.

However, Azalina said, without creative promotion by tourism players, these natural attractions would not be explored by tourists and would not guarantee that more tourists would come here in the future.

“It is not about having the best roads or airports. Your success in tourism will come from nature and will depend on you (tourism players). You are very fortunate.”I was in Sukau (a wildlife hotspot on the Kinabatangan floodplain). You have wildlife which is your branding.”

The minister was responding to a number of issues brought up at a dialogue with the tourism industry at Sabah Hotel here yesterday.

Hoteliers and tour operators, who had gathered to meet Azalina, told her that they felt the Sandakan airport should be upgraded into an international airport and that the roads and power supply must be further improved to woo tourists to the state’s east coast.

Azalina said it was wrong of tourism players here to feel that they were sidelined, as the east coast region had received the recognition of Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, when she visited the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) at the Sepilok-Kabili forest reserve here on June 1.

Jeanne had said she was impressed with the abundance of flora and fauna and added that Sabah’s rainforests were priceless and should be showcased to the world.

Azalina said Sandakan and the surrounding districts stood to gain when the inaugural Malaysian Rainforest Flora and Fauna Festival was held at the RDC in August next year.

She said this was a creative way to promote the state’s rainforests. She said it would boost tourism and promote nature awareness among Malaysians.

She also praised the tourism boards of Sabah and Sarawak for doing a good job in promoting the two states’ tourism sites and products, and expressed the hope that the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) sector would be further explored in Sabah.


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