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Indian golfers see Sanah as more than golfing destination

  • YB Khairul Firdaus Akhbar Khan (seated left) meeting with Indian golfers at a luncheon on the first day of their familiarisation trip.
  • YB Khairul Firdaus Akhbar Khan (6th left) meeting with Indian golfers at a luncheon on the first day of their familiarisation trip.
  • Datuk Joniston Bangkuai sharing his view with India's leading golf educator Romit Bose on Sabah's golf tourism potential.

Tourism Malaysia has brought a group of Indian golf tour experts and enthusiasts to Sabah for a four-day familiarisation tour.

KOTA KINABALU – Indian golf tour experts and enthusiasts, who are in the state to explore courses with a unique landscape, viewed Sabah as a destination beyond golf.

Last Tuesday, the group of five Indian golfers arrived in Sabah and was immediately taken aback by the breathtaking scenery of Kota Kinabalu and the warm reception they received.

Tourism Malaysia has brought them here for a four-day familiarisation tour, which includes a dinner hosted by Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai on the first day of the itinerary.

During the dinner event, the group shared their perspective on how, due to Sabah’s diversified offering for vacationers, the state could draw visitors from India beyond only golfers.

India’s leading golf educator Romit Bose remarked that Sabah’s opportunity is readily apparent, emphasising the availability of golf courses within a resort, hotel facilities, and the fantastic weather to play golf all year round.

“I run an academy in New Delhi, where I train golfers and nurture junior golfers who aspire to become pros so they can compete in tournaments. I can see Sabah as a tournament destination. Taking advantage of everything that Sabah offers, you should be able to attract between 300 and 500 junior golfers with their family members. To me, Sabah should be a destination for kids and their families,” said the managing director of The Golfing Hub.

The managing director of Diplomatic Travels, Mahender Pal Khanna, acknowledged that the stunning natural beauty of Sabah’s state capital alone is a draw, and the existence of good wellness spas is an added plus for Indian tourists. “From what I have experienced, Sabah is a fantastic destination with much more than just golf. The wedding industry is also significant to us, which you can tap into. I believe if we have direct flights from India, it will help bring multiple guests to Sabah,” he added.

Members of the group also spoke about the potential of mounting direct chartered flights from India to Sabah in the near future.

The group’s trip came about after a successful meeting between golf operators and the Honourable Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture Malaysia, YB Khairul Firdaus bin Akbar Khan, at the South Asia Travel & Tourism Exchange (SATTE) 2023 in India last February.

“We are thrilled to showcase Sabah’s beautiful golf courses and attractions as a significant step in positioning Sabah as a premier golf destination for Indian travellers. Through collaborations with industry players and enhanced connectivity, we are confident that Sabah will captivate Indian golfers and contribute to Malaysia’s tourism growth,” said Khairul, who met the golfers at a luncheon earlier.

Meanwhile, Joniston, who is also the state Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment, said Sabah hopes to offer a genuinely exotic golfing experience that is different from other golfing destinations. “We have some 20 golf courses surrounded by lush rainforests, mountains, and pristine beaches, providing a unique backdrop for golfers to enjoy while playing. We have been receiving quite a number of golfers coming to Sabah, and India is a new market for us. We do hope to see more Indian golfers and their families in Sabah enjoy not only golfing but our rich cultural heritage.

“This cultural immersion adds another dimension to the golfing trip, making it a well-rounded experience that combines sport, nature, and cultural exploration,” he said.

The group would play golf at the Sutera Habour Golf and Country Club and the Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club during their familiarisation trip. They would also inspect the Nexus Golf Karambunai Resort.

Present at the dinner were the Permanent Secretary of Sabah’s Tourism, Culture, and Environment Ministry, Datuk Sr Mohd. Yusrie Abdullah; Tourism Malaysia Senior Director International Promotion Division (ASAF), Manoharan Periasamy; Tourism Malaysia Deputy Director (North and East India) Muhammad Akmal Hafiz Abdul Aziz; and Sabah Tourism Board Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Tay Shu Lan.

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Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.