KUALA LUMPUR: Sabah’s tourism recovery efforts are showing signs of success with a growing number of direct international and domestic flights into the State.

While flight domestic connectivity is back in full swing, state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said international connectivity is also making great strides to make Sabah accessible within the Southeast Asia region.

“I am pleased to inform that our domestic connection is expanding, with a total of 389 weekly flights now available since the interstate travel was lifted late last year and international border reopened in April this year. There used to be 445 weekly flights before the pandemic.

“To date, Sabah has welcomed five direct international flights and we will receive two more direct flights from Incheon, South Korea to Kota Kinabalu next week.

“We are also expecting a Bangkok-Kota Kinabalu direct flight to resume. This is indeed an extremely positive scene for the Sabah tourism industry,” he said at the launching of Bazaar MATTA 2022 at the Sunway Velocity Mall here, on Saturday.

Present at the launching were Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) President Datuk Tan Kok Liang; Tourism Malaysia’s Senior Director of Domestic and Events Iskandar Mirza Mohd Yusof; and Sabah Tourism Board Chief Marketing Officer Tay Shu Lan, among others.

The airlines that currently operate international direct flights to Kota Kinabalu are Air Asia (via Manila and Singapore), Scoot (via Singapore), Royal Brunei Airlines (via Brunei), and Jin Air (via Incheon).

For domestic travel, Kota Kinabalu has direct flights from Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu, Penang, Johor Bahru, and Kuala Lumpur. Both Sandakan and Tawau are also easily accessible from Kuala Lumpur.

Additionally, there has been a progressive growth in domestic and foreign visitors to Sabah, with preliminary figures showing an estimated 408,530 arrivals between January and April this year.

Compiled by the Sabah Tourism Board, the overall estimated figure includes 392,968 domestic tourists and 15,562 international tourists.

“This estimate represents a 412 per cent increase over the same period last year. For us, this is already a promising indicator of people’s desire to return to Sabah, to travel and discover new places,” said Joniston, who also chairs Sabah Tourism Board.

He also commended the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) for hosting the Bazaar MATTA event, particularly for spotlighting Sabah and bringing it to the fore.

“Even though the Bazaar MATTA is a smaller travel fair in comparison to the usual MATTA fair, the fact that 30-based travel agents are taking part this weekend is a good sign that the event is just as important.

“Sabah packages were in high demand at recent travel exhibitions… On that note, Sabah Tourism Board encourages potential visitors to always use licensed travel agents when booking and arranging a vacation to ensure safety,” added Joniston.

Sabah will promote and sell a wide range of domestic travel and tourism packages, with attractive prizes to be won, including flight tickets to Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, and Sandakan at the two-day Bazaar MATTA.

Visitors are also entitled to RM100 Boost voucher that can be utilized among several participating agents.

Meanwhile, Tan said the Bazaar was MATTA’s first pilot project, adding they would highlight other states by bringing in respective travel agents as part of their initiative to boost domestic travel.

“We have chosen to highlight Sabah first because tourism is one of their key sectors. There has been an increasing demand for Sabah and its rural destinations,” he said.

– ENDS –

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

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