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Kinabalu Narratives

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Mount Kinabalu is an important landmark of Sabah and important icon to Sabah's tourism industry. Throughout written history, Mount Kinabalu is taken as a beacon and as a site of wondrous biological diversity that needs preserving. Of course, the mount is also taken as a culturally significant plan to the indigenous communities of Sabah as well as a place to test one's determination and endurance. As a result, Mount Kinabalu has a few narratives, which have developed over the years. Sabah’s tourism players are aware about these narratives and have created tourism products and services around those narratives. However, those narratives have yet to be documented and studied scientifically. The lack of documentation and studies of those narratives could be limiting the development of newer products and services, which in turn would have an impact on the Sabah’s overall tourism industry.

Tourism industry worldwide is a cyclic affair; it has its ups and it has its downs. With Sabah's assured tourist arrivals annual increase, the cyclic ups and downs are noted in specific sub-sectors of the industry. One example of the ups and downs is found in the expansion of the Asia market segment. In 2013, some 200,000 Chinese tourists visited Sabah. The Chinese tourists - South Korean tourists’ ratio was 3:1. By 2017, almost 400,000 Chinese tourists visited Sabah and the Chinese tourists - South Korean tourists ratio changed to 2:1. These figures are showing that the South Korean tourists’ market is expanding upwards, while the Chinese tourists’ market is expanding slightly lower rate. While there are numerous factors to the change such as new fight routes and more business networking, the understanding about Sabah's icon influencing the tourist arrivals cannot be denied.

Tourists are drawn to a certain place for many reasons. One reason is that the narrative surrounding an icon is important to those tourists. A narrative or story is an account of a series of related events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious. Narrative is found in all forms of human creativity, art, and entertainment, including speech, literature, theatre, music and song, comics, journalism, film, television and video, video games, radio, game-play, unstructured recreation, and performance in general, as well as some painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, and other visual arts, as long as a sequence of events is presented. ‘The “right” holiday has considerable symbolic value and for many people the choice of holiday-taking is a reflection of conspicuous consumption through which they can reaffirm self-image and social status’ (Ye and Tussyadiah, 2010). By understanding the narratives, targeted promotions can be made.

In academic literature on Tourism in Sabah, there are scholastic findings about Sabah tourism icons and it influences on the industry. There are also scholastic findings about tourists’ preferences, perception and motivations. In general, tourists prefer a safe destination and perceive Sabah by its natural attraction and a cheap alternative destination (Aminudin et. al., 2018; Kuilis-Bosimin and Chan, 2018; Norliza et. al., 2005) and are motived to visit the destination because they wanted escape a certain routine and enhance their social status (Som et. al., 2012). There is yet a scholastic finding about the tourism narrative(s) of Sabah.

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