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Sabah to tap Saudi Arabian, Middle East tourism markets

New Straits Times logo New Straits Times 26/5/2022 Paul Mu
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KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is ready to explore the Saudi Arabian and other Middle Eastern markets to open greater opportunities for the state tourism industry.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin said Sabah will support any development and promotion of a sustainable, competitive and inclusive tourism and cultural industry with the Gulf countries.

"It is time for Sabah to see the potential of tourism, especially in the Middle East, and to diversify its packages to further invigorate the tourism and cultural industries," he said during a courtesy call by Asean Travel Saudi Arabia managing director Fahad Alotaibi at Wisma Tun Fuad Stephen here.

He said since China had imposed a "zero-Covid" policy to limit its citizens from travelling abroad, tourism industry players now need to explore other regional markets.

"We need to find new alternatives and focus on other markets that have opened their borders, including Saudi Arabia, and we are very positive about the impact," said Jafry.

Some of the things that are currently being looked at include efforts to attract foreign airlines to launch direct flights from Saudi Arabia to Kota Kinabalu, he said.

This is for the convenience of tourists as it would enable them to fly directly to Sabah without the need for transit at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he said.

Jafry said the ministry also intends to bring restaurant operators to the state to provide Arabic and Middle Eastern food to cater to visitors.

He also suggested for state tourism players to take the initiative of creating Muslim-friendly tourism programmes.

For the record, Malaysia is listed in the top five countries for Muslim-friendly tourism destinations besides Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran.

"I am confident that with the advantages we have in our state, which is rich in natural beauty, Muslim-friendly tourism programmes will definitely be 'game changers'' in the tourism industry in Sabah," said Jafry.

He expressed hope that with the efforts and cooperation of all parties, including travel agencies, Sabah can be turned into the top choice for tourists from around the world.

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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