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East coast to have charter flights from China next year

17th November, 2016


KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Tourism is planning to launch charter flight services from China to the east coast towns early next year.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Pang Yuk Ming disclosed that they are planning to mount direct flight services from Guangzhou and Chengdu to Sandakan.

And both the flights will return home via Tawau, he said.

“So tourists will visit Sandakan first before travelling to Tawau to continue their holidays and then return home,” said Pang when met recently during the farewell party for Hangzhou Municipal People’s Congress Standing Committee chairman Wang Jincai and his entourage at a hotel here.

During the visit here, Wang signed a memorandum of understanding with City Hall Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai to foster stronger ties and collaboration in trade, investment and tourism between Hangzhou and Kota Kinabalu. “The Guangzhou side has agreed with the proposal and now we are waiting for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to give us the schedules. Maybe in the next few weeks we can finalise the agreements,” said Pang, adding that they are eyeing to fly during the Chinese New Year season.

Besides that, he said the Sabah Tourism also strived to help promote Labuan to the China market.

“I understand that Labuan has been promoting their tourism sector aggressively since the oil and gas industry declined in the island.

“The business is suffering and I heard many of their hotels are empty although they have ambitiously mounted a few chartered flights from China.

“But to me, I think it is difficult to attract visitors if we only promote Labuan alone because there is not many products the island can offer to holidaymakers,” noted Pang.

“Maybe it works in a short span of time but it will be difficult to maintain it in a long run,” he said. To make the sojourn to Labuan unique, Pang suggested that the package to Labuan should include a visit to Kota Kinabalu too.

For example, he said if the programme is for four days, the itinerary can kick off from Kota Kinabalu where tourists can spend two days in the city before taking a ferry to Labuan as “two days is enough to cover the whole island.” On the sisterhood cities established between Kota Kinabalu City and Hangzhou, Pang said the pact certainly augurs well and will further boost the local tourism industry.

“We already have the direct flight services operated by AirAsia since Dec 2013. It was a daily flight and the arrivals to Kota Kinabalu were very encouraging with up to 80 per cent passenger load during the holiday seasons,” said Pang.

And since Hangzhou is a big market, Pang suggested that we should encourage one more airline company perhaps, the China Northern Airlines to consider flying to Kota Kinabalu.

“We hope the closer rapport formed between Kota Kinabalu and Hangzhou will not only focus on tourism development but also to promote cultural and business exchange between both sides,” said Pang. Other than that, he revealed that the recently shelved Tianjin charter flight services to Kota Kinabalu and vice-versa will resume in January next year.

And Pang urged the operators who handle the Tianjin-Kota Kinabalu and vice-versa routes to discuss their flight services with Sabah Tourism so that they can help them to do the promotion and marketing. Like Hangzhou, he said Tianjin is also a big market waiting to be explored and they are also nearby to Beijing where we can also tap into its market.

“They have a big population and a lot of them have never visited Sabah before,” said Pang.

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