Friday, August 02, 2013

More China tourists via Kota Kinabalu-Hangzhou route

KOTA KINABALU: AirAsia’s decision to expand its connectivity from Kota Kinabalu to Hangzhou, China will contribute to the increasing number of tourists from China and Hong Kong to Sabah.

Tourism, culture and environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the arrival of international tourists from China and Hong Kong for the first five months of this year was up by 77.3 per cent compared to last year.

“The statistics had increased from 71,152 to 126,150 tourists, showing that China is a very important market for Sabah. For the past two consecutive years, China and Hong Kong recorded the highest international arrivals into Sabah,” he said in a press conference during the AirAsia inaugural Kota Kinabalu-Hangzhou flight at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) Terminal 2, yesterday.

Masidi said the ministry and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) will continue to work closely with each and all airlines that fly to Sabah.

“We have strong relationship with AirAsia. Even before AirAsia took its first flight, STB was already in discussion with this airline, formulating strategies to hub AirAsia in Kota Kinabalu. I am confident this partnership and cooperation will continue to grow further.

“The combined efforts from all parties including the Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad and the Ministry of Transport have made and positioned KKIA as the busiest airport in Malaysia, after KLIA. KKIA is the eastern gateway to Malaysia. It has a great potential to be the hub for AirAsia to fully tap the business prospects from northern Asia routes and Australia, saving on fuel and flight time,” he said.

Masidi added Hangzhou to Kita Kiabalu is about four hours flight, and is the fifth Chinese city to connect Sabah via a direct non-stop flight.

He said people from Hangzhou would appreciate going to the islands off Sabah, which are located 15 minutes away by boat from the city, water activities and fresh seafood.

“The Sabah government has worked with AirAsia for the last decade and will continue doing so. My ministry will work to further increase the number of air accessibility into Sabah to target 3.55 million arrivals and RM80 billion in tourism receipts by 2015,” Masidi added in his speech before the latest direct flight from Kota Kinabalu to Hangzhou, China took off on time at 4.10pm yesterday, with a healthy 85 per cent flight load.

The latest direct flight marks AirAsia’s 26th route into China and the fifth route from Kota Kinabalu to greater China. AirAsia has direct flights to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Taipei from Kota Kinabalu.

Apart from Masidi, AirAsia Berhad’s chief Executive officer (CEO), Aireen Omar, STB chairman chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, STB general manager Datuk Irene Charuruks and head of commercial AirAsia Berhad Kenny Wong were also present to send off the guests of the inaugural flight at KKIA Terminal 2.

Aireen, in her speech said AirAsia was committed towards enhancing connectivity from East Malaysia, and the direct flight from Kota Kinabalu-Hangzhou wouldl be a contributing factor towards making Sabah a major international hub for both business and leisure travellers.

“As this is the fifth route connecting China to Sabah, we hope that more tourists will be able to discover the beauty of Sabah through AirAsia.