Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Drastic drop in chartered flights from China to Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Less than 10 chartered flights from China are heading for Sabah this Chinese New Year, marking a drastic drop compared to previous years.

To date, only four chartered flights from Chengdu of Sichuan Province, two from Changsha of Hunan Province and three from Hangzhou of Zhejiang Province have confirmed coming to the State during the Chinese festive season.

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming admitted that the number of chartered flights this year was much less than before, given that there were 120 chartered flights to Sabah last year and 268 flights in 2013.

He said free independent travelers (FIT) from China were returning to Sabah but the number of tour groups was still lagging behind, especially chartered flights.

Pang said the potential for chartered flights was huge because not many airlines would consider providing scheduled flights to Sabah as the Chinese were seasonal travelers.

“For airlines to mount direct flight is a long shot because the Chinese are seasonal travelers. They only come (to Sabah) during Chinese New Year, National Day holidays and long holidays between June and August.

“So to rely on scheduled flights, I don’t think many airlines will consider it,” Pang said in a press conference to announce the formation of Sabah Tourism Federation (STF) here yesterday.

On the other hand, Pang, who is tasked with overseeing the Chinese market, welcomed the arrival of Chen Peijie, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Kota Kinabalu.

“I believe her arrival will have a big impact on tourist arrivals from China.”

Pang said the setting up of a Chinese consulate here showed the good relations between Malaysia, in particular Sabah, and China.