|image: MATTA Sabah facebook|
He said that overall tourist arrivals to Sabah in the first two months of the year showed an 8.3 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.
"International visitor arrivals recorded a double-digit growth of 21.6 per cent compared to the January to February period in 2015; in February we received 54 chartered flights from China alone.
"The highest source of overseas tourists came from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan which account for 57.9 per cent or 115,092 of total foreign arrivals compared to previous years," he said in his speech at the opening of the Sabah MATTA Fair 2016, here Friday.
Masidi also said his ministry would strive to bring in more airlines and chartered flights to Sabah and urged stakeholders to develop new tourism products and services, and continue improving products and facilities' quality in ensuring sustainable tourism.
A total of 48 exhibitors are exhibiting their products, tour and travel packages with 97 booths set up at this year's MATTA fair held from May 6 to 8 at Suria Sabah mall in the city centre.
Sabah MATTA Chapter chairman Robert Chong said earlier that the US Embassy and SilkAir are participating for the first time this year with last year's exhibitors including Royal Brunei Airlines, Indonesian Tourism and Taiwan Tourism returning in the current edition.
Chong said the Matta Sabah Chapter is planning to set up a 24-hour emergency hotline for tourists with more details to be announced soon.
Meanwhile, counselor for public affairs at the US Embassy, Frank Whitaker told reporters after the opening ceremony that the United States hoped to build stronger ties with Sabah and was keen to introduce more Sabahans to the country as travel and education destinations.
"About 80,000 Malaysians travel to the US every year and 97 per cent of Malaysians' applications for tourist and business visas are approved annually. We want more Malaysian citizens to visit the US," US Embassy consul-general Jessica Norris said.
The Sabah MATTA Fair expects between RM5 million to RM8 million sales from the event this year.