Sabah moves to revive two iconic tourism events

Sabah State government plans to revive two iconic tourism events in the state this year, namely the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon and Sabah Fest, as part of its preparations for Visit Malaysia Year 2026.

The two events are promoted by Sabah Tourism Board and organised by the board’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Sri Pelancongan Sabah – both have the support from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Environment (MoTCE) Sabah.

Sabah Fest showcases the diverse traditions, arts, craft, cuisines and performances of Sabah’s ethnic groups

The Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon, an annual event since 1987, faced a temporary hiatus in 2015 and 2016 due to safety concerns following an earthquake in Kinabalu Parks. It resumed in 2017 but remained inactive in 2018 before officially discontinuing in 2019 as its objectives of showcasing Mount Kinabalu and the surrounding Kinabalu Park had been accomplished.

Thonny Chee, CEO of Sri Pelancongan Sabah, shared that his organisation was waiting for feedback from MoTCE on their proposal to revive the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon this year in October.

Chee expressed enthusiasm about the event’s potential to draw both local and international participants, highlighting its significance in promoting adventure tourism and showcasing the natural beauty of Mount Kinabalu and its surroundings.

As for Sabah Fest, its month-long celebration of cultural diversity, spanning more than 30 ethnic races, has long been a cherished tourism event since its inception in 1988. It showcases the diverse traditions, arts, craft, cuisines and performances of Sabah’s ethnic groups. However, the unfortunate disruption in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic halted its momentum.

Chee sees the Sabah Fest revival not only as a means to reignite local pride but also as a strategic move to attract inbound tourists from the region. He shared: “By showcasing the rich tapestry of Sabah’s cultural heritage through traditional performances, arts, crafts, and culinary delights, Sabah Fest presents a unique opportunity for the tourism sector to capitalise on the growing interest in cultural tourism experiences.”

He added that Sri Pelancongan Sabah will send a proposal soon to MoTCE outlining plans for the revival of Sabah Fest and to have it complement the Harvest Festival in May, as it has traditionally been done.

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