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State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the state’s tourism players should evolve and embrace online engagement, particularly social media in terms of marketing and promotions. (Pix by MOHD ADAM ARININ)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah tourism players who adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach stand to lose out, given the emergence of online players in the industry.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the state’s tourism players should instead evolve and embrace online engagement, particularly social media in terms of marketing and promotions.

He said that while Sabah recorded an increase a 7.5 increase (3.68 million people) in tourist arrivals last year, there is no guarantee the performance will be matched in the future if the tourism players do not become more competitive.

He cited the example of the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), which has embraced digitalisation since 2009. STB began their online foray with Facebook and Twitter and now have an established presence on Instagram, YouTube, Weibo and WeChat, with the latter two specifically targeted at the Chinese market.

“STB is also starting to use WhatsApp for promotions and has been working with social media influencers by bringing them to experience Sabah through their postings,” he told audience at the Digital Tourism Workshop, held here today.

He said such workshops can help industry players gain knowledge on how to move forward in the tourism industry, given that the younger generation adapt easier to technological changes compared to the older groups.

Speaking to reporters later, Masidi cited examples of online short-term lodging system Airbnb, which appeals to youngsters as both operators and clients, and have indirectly affected the hotel industry.

Asked whether Airbnb would be an immediate solution to the shortage of hotel rooms in Sabah, particularly Kota Kinabalu, he said the regulations regarding Airbnb must be ironed out first.

“I think good business can be achieved if all hotel chains work together.

“At the same time, there are no laws governing Airbnb at present and the authorities must ensure a win-win situation in regulating Airbnb,” he said.

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