Tourism Industry in Sabah

1.0 Tourism Industry in Sabah

The tourism industry, especially in Sabah, has been booming despite the natural disaster tsunami and bird flu. Tourists have been flocking to Sabah due to its unique eco-related places that had generated a lot of interests among foreign visitors. Kota klias is one of the many interesting sites in Sabah and in recent years the area has been gaining popularity among foreign tourists due to the presence of the unique and proboscis monkey.


The world tourism industry reached an all-time record of 760 million international tourist arrivals

in 2004. The figure represented an increase of 10 percent in comparison with the previous year, the best results in two decades, according to a report released by World Tourism Organisation. The Organisation said year 2005 was even better, with Asia benefiting not seen before.

2.1 Malaysia

Tourist Arrivals and Receipts to Malaysia:

Year Arrivals Tourism Receipts (RM)
2000 10.22 million 17,335.4 million
2001 12.78 million 24,221.5 million
2002 13.29 million 25,781.1 million
2003 10.58 million 21,291.1 million
2004 15.70 million 29.651.4 million
2005 (10 months) 13.58 million Not Available

Malaysia recorded a total of 13,581,502 tourist arrivals from January to October 2005 compared to 13,071,098 for the same period in 2004, indicating an increase of 3.9%. For the month of October 2005, there were 1,367,735 tourist arrivals compared to 1,359,658 for the same month in 2004, showing a slight growth of 0.6%.

Malaysia has been recording a steady average of some 1.3 million foreign visitors per month for the first ten months

The top ten tourist generating markets until October 2005 were Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, China, Australia, United Kingdom, India and Taiwan.

The country is expected to receive even higher tourist arrivals in 2007, which coincide with the Visit Malaysia Year.

3.0 Sabah

Tourists Arrivals to Sabah:

Year Malaysian Internationals Total
2000 365,537 408,938 774,475
2001 512,514 406,009 918,523
2002 579,092 528,264 1,107,356
2003 681,742 569,712 1,251,454
2004 792,308 980,963 1,773,271
2005(preliminary) 1,067,677 761,094 1,828,771

As for Sabah, 2005 was unquestionably a better year than 2004. Sabah welcomed a record high of more than 1.8 million arrivals in 2005, posting a 3 percent increase over 2004 and 46 percent increase over 2003. This translates into a tourism receipt of over RM 2 billion for Sabah.
Although the country has faced extraordinary challenges due to circumstances beyond control such as the tsunami natural disaster and spread of bird flu, the number of tourist arrivals to the State had however increased.

According to the State’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment recently, the number of tourist arrivals had increased by 2.7 percent, from 1.773 million in 2004 to 1.821 million in 2005. In this respect, the Ministry said the target of 2.7 million arrivals in 2007 is not impossible due to further support from the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 campaign.

The state may see tourist arrivals to further increase with a possible target of 4 million arrivals by 2010. This will greatly benefit tourism industry, where the number of visitors will continue to increase.

The State of Sabah has been receiving increasing number of tourist arrivals due primarily to its wide varieties of tourism attractions which broadly included as exciting site for adventures, diverse cultures, diving haven, white sandy island beaches, tasty local delicacies, heritage sites and most importantly, availability of unique wildlife and nature.

These diverse tourist attractions have made Sabah an increasingly popular destination for tourists to visit Sabah. There are indications that the existing hotel rooms are grossly inadequate to meet the strong demand as a result from tourists’ arrivals.


Kota Klias is located about 150 km from Kota Kinabalu, a Mangrove Forest Reserve rich with the elusive Proboscis monkey, Silver Leaf monkey and myriad species of birds that inhabit this unique riverine environment.

4.1 Fireflies

On a moonless night, the area will be swarm by the flickering lights of fireflies against the night sky. Congregation of fireflies can be seen almost all along the bank of the Klias River. Some trees may have more than a thousand individuals of adult fireflies. Apart from Kota Klias, the Selangor river (Peninsular Malaysia) is one of the more renown areas for observing the magical display of fireflies.

4.2 Proboscis Monkey:

It is the Proboscis monkey that has single-handedly turns the Kota Klias into an important tourist’s attraction along the river. Little is known about this primate unlike its more famous cousin‚ the Orang Utan‚ which has been studied‚ both in the wild and captivity. The Proboscis will usually die soon after capture — literally starving themselves to death even in large enclosures‚ no matter how lush or lavish their living area is.

This is why these monkeys cannot be seen in zoos and receives much less attention‚ even among scientists and researchers‚ compared to other primates. They are best left to themselves in the mangrove and peat swamp forests of Sabah‚ Sarawak‚ Kalimantan and several smaller surrounding islands where they constitutes a valuable part of Borneo’s natural heritage together with its more famous cousin‚ the Orang Utan. As the uniqueness of this Proboscis monkey gains popularity and it is only available in Borneo, especially in the Kota Klias, the number of visitors is expected to increase.


Presently, there are two jetties established by tour operators near the Kota Klias from where they provide boat services to tourists to see these animals. The Lodge is established about a crow fly away from the bridge, it also provides accommodation and boat services to their guests.

In a brief survey to the area, there were about 100 tourists loaded in eight different boats in one particular day from the same operators. There were other boats with about 100 tourists from another operator. Between the two operators, they have about 30 boats; each boat can take maximum 30 passengers.

It was known at peak season, all the boats were fully used. Quite often, the operators have to outsource additional boats from the villagers staying along the Klias river to ferry tourists for a boat cruise.

It was observed that during peak tourist season, the existing operators could not cope with surge in demand for river cruise along Kota Klias and I foresee with the continued increase in tourist arrivals to Sabah, such facilities are glaringly inadequate to accommodate future demand.

Most tourists enjoyed the boat cruise and the riverine scenery and the main objective; watching the Proboscis monkey is a justification to conduct such cruise. The river cruise will be more interesting if the tourists are given prior information or pre-tour briefing on what to expect and what type of wildlife other than the monkey, to watch during the cruise. Besides in Bahasa Malaysia and English, the information shall be provided in other foreign languages such as Japanese, Korean and Mandarin, depending on the nationality of the tourists.

A professional naturalist will provide a briefing about the natural history of the Kota Klias and the wildlife in the area, before leaving the jetty. Narrative explanation will also be provided on site if the tourists’ requests further information.

6.0 Eco-Education Tourism Services

In order to provide a more professional tour services to tourists, Nature Interpreter (naturalists) may be engaged to provide briefing and narrative explanation to the tourists about the natural history of the Kota Klias habitat and the wildlife seen from the boat. This will be more meaningful to the tourists and value for their money.

******************** THE END***********************