KOTA KINABALU: Agents for Uzbekistani charter airlines are looking at Sabah as a possible future direct flight destination.

If this plan come to fruition, it will further put Sabah on the global map as a destination of choice for Central Asian tourists.

On Friday, Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai had a meeting with the Uzbekistan representatives to discuss on the matter, among others.

They were Uzbekistan-based Osmon Aero co-founder Dilshod Mukhomediev and director general Anastasiya Arushanova.

Also present were Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang, Matta Sabah chairman Lawrence Chin, Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) for Sabah and Labuan chairman Hafizan Wong, and Sabah Tourism Board chief marketing officer Tay Shu Lan, among others.

The delegation proposed to establish a direct charter flight between Kota Kinabalu and Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan.

The delegates’ recent trip to Langkawi, during which they learned about Sabah’s tourism potential, was the impetus for the conception of this idea.

“We flew here and were impressed with the infrastructures as well as the number of hotels available.

“Currently, we will have 10 direct flights from Tashkent to Kuala Lumpur. For Sabah, we are considering putting a direct flight hopefully next year,” said Dilshod.

Malaysia Airlines’ chartered flight from Tashkent to Kuala Lumpur will begin in July.

Dilshod added Sabah would be an interesting destination for Central Asians due to its beautiful beaches and nature.

Meanwhile, Joniston who chairs Sabah Tourism Board, welcomed the proposal adding such would be a long term strategic plan to make the state tourism industry sustainable.

“If this happens, Central Asia will become a new market for us. Indeed, the Sabah Tourism Board is constantly working to attract new markets, and this will undoubtedly increase our presence.

“For a start, we must devise an effective marketing strategy and raise awareness of Sabah in Central Asia” he said, citing the possibility of drawing tourists from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as potential markets too.

According to Tan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are potential emerging markets for Sabah tourism to tap in.

“Products offerings that would appeal to holiday makers from these destinations are the islands, beaches and wildlife of Sabah.

“It is a good opportunity to tap these markets post pandemic other than relying on traditional markets like China and South Korea which will take time to recover.

“Perhaps we can start with some group series from schedule fights via Kuala Lumpur and then move on to charter flights for these destinations. With sabah tourism board support, better days ahead can be expected to revitalise the industry,” he said.


Monday, June 13, 2022

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