State policies are indicating that the Sabah tourism industry will be the biggest future beneficiary of projects such as Kota Kinabalu airport extension, favourable pioneer tax status to investment in hotels before 2013 and the opening of the Sabah International Convention Complex (SICC) in 2012 will all benefit the Sabah economy.
It is predicted that the Sabah economy will grow by between 6 - 6.5% during 2011 with an emphasis on development that will bear fruit with the addition of value added activities during the subsequent years.
Sabah Tourism is doing its bit by tirelessly promoting Sabah as a premier tourist destination and I can testify that having visited Sabah it is an absolutely fantastic place to visit and I am looking forward to the next opportunity I get to visit 'The Land Below The Wind'.
All this points to opportunity for the astute Sabah businessman, none of these transient visitors will want to stay in their pampered hotels all the time, they will want to get out and about tasting the local foods, buying the local souvenirs and imbibing the local brews.
The Sabah state government and Sabah Foundation are working jointly to set up a convention bureau dedicated to promote the convention and exhibition business through focused marketing and positive promotion of MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions) facilities surrounded by a tourist friendly environment with all the attractions that the 'Land Below The Wind' Sabah can offer as encouragement.
Another benefit is additional Sabah business tourism with business delegates flying in for conferences and exhibitions at not just the SICC but also the recently opened 1Borneo Conference Centre and Star Cituy Conference Event Centre.
Currently there are about 18,000 rooms available in Sabah hotels and this is expected to be increased by a further 6,000 by the end of 2012 with additional expansion expected as years progress.
The history of Sabah business over the previous half century has been dominated by agriculture, forestry, mining, livestock and fishing.
Sabah Business Tourism
KKIA will be able to handle 12 million passengers annually once the expansion is complete which is up from its current annual capacity of 4.6 million passengers.
While these sectors will probably maintain current trends it is the travel and conservation industries that are indicating the biggest growth potential.
Questions still remain but early indications are that tourism could be a major fillip to the Sabah economy.