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ICONIC: Mt Kinabalu remains a popular product for the tourism sector.

The tourism sector looks set to soar to greater heights as the Sabah Barisan Nasional government maps out a comprehensive development plan that will boost arrivals.

The government is looking towards offering new attractions deep in the heart of rural Sabah and boosting its infrastructure to greet more guests that can be expected in the years to come.

For this, the government approved an allocation of RM228 million to support the sustainability of tourism programmes in the 2018 Sabah Budget — a major boost for the sector that has seen exceptional growth not only in terms of arrivals but also in revenue collection.

Arrivals have increased by three folds the last 15 years to 3.74 million last year and brought an estimated RM7.8 billion in revenue.

The Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) also remains the country’s second busiest airport with 410 domestic flights weekly, 186 international flights weekly.

A sum of RM15 million has also been set aside in the Sabah 2018 Budget to further promote rural tourism and diversify popular attractions in the state.

This will also be a major boost for many rural communities in promoting their charm, culture and lifestyles to the outside world.

Two major undertakings that will elevate the industry to be on par with major international destinations will be the 348 ha Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) and the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC).

TAED, which will see an integrated beach front development for tourism, is envisioned to benefit the economy, community and environment.

As for the SICC, it will help turn Kota Kinabalu into an attractive and leading destination for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibition activities (MICE).

Both projects came with strong Federal backing. Sabah’s anchor natural destinations such as Mount Kinabalu, its beaches, islands, parks and forests will also be consistently upgraded with better sustainable facilities and preservation programmes to make them more accesible yet protected for the future generation.

Efforts will also be intensified to diversify other tourism products such as eco-based adventures, rural tourism with more focus on communal programmes such as village homestays and even new ventures such as hosting cruise ships.

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