SEMPORNA: Like other tourist destinations, Semporna, known as the gateway to paradise islands, now relies on domestic travellers to revive its vibrant tourism economy.
Between January and May this year, there were 24,000 local tourists in Semporna compared to 33,000 in the same period last year.
The drop in local tourist arrivals was due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the imposition of the movement control order (MCO) on March 18
Despite the 10,000-marginal difference, District Office assistant administrative officer Hafizul Hafiz Ladja Hassan said they remained hopeful tourism would pick up with the participation of locals.
“Sure, the Covid-19 has affected our tourism in terms of the Malaysian market, we can see there’s still progress. We will really need to depend on the local market now.
“We are going to have a series of meetings with local tourism players to discuss the needs of the district. We also have an existing district tourism plan committee to look into how we can best position Semporna as a tourism destination in this new normal,” he said.
Hafizul noted Semporna locals have been actively engaging in tourism since 2009, adding over 300,000 Malaysians have visited the coastal district from 2017 to 2019.
He also said they would look into boosting product offerings and identifying new potential products to lure more domestic visitors into Tawau and eventually Semporna.
“We have proposed to Sabah Parks and the State Museum to have flying fox activities from Bukit Tengkorak to Pulau Tampi-Tampi as a new product. However, this is only in the proposal stage,” he said, adding studies needed to be done to assess its feasibility.
Last week, Sabah Tourist Association (STA) in collaboration with Tourism Malaysia and MASwings organised a 4D3N familiarisation trip to Semporna with media practitioners to experience domestic travel in the current recovery MCO, or RMCO phase.
STA chairman Tonny Chew said tourism arrivals had suffered since the Covid-19 outbreak started as tourists from around the world were cancelling bookings and delaying travel plans due to health concerns and travel bans.
“As the country is now allowing interstate travel, the first crucial step is to restore domestic traveller confidence.
“Tourists must be informed that holiday destinations in Sabah are not only breathtakingly beautiful and diverse but also practice the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) outlined by the Ministry of Health.
Through the programmes and activities planned for the trip, Sabah Tourism Malaysia director Jamilah Abdul Halim hoped it would help convince domestic tourists to travel again to Sabah.
“At the same time, packages with attractive offers can be developed through the exchange of participating tour operators and Semporna industry players,” she said.
Throughout the trip, the group visited Bohey Dulang, Mantabuan, Sibuan Island, Mabul Island, and Kapalai.
Activities such as hiking, diving, scuba diving discovery, snorkelling, kayaking, and sunset watching were organised to give the participants a first-hand tourist experience.
By : Avila Geraldine – NST