KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s tourism recovery efforts are showing signs of success with a growing number of direct international and domestic flights into the state.
Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said while domestic connectivity was back in full swing, international connectivity was also making great strides to make Sabah accessible within the southeast Asia region.
“I am pleased to inform you 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 the international border reopened in April this year,” he said.
He said 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,” said Joniston.
He said Sabah is also expecting the Bangkok-Kota Kinabalu direct flight to resume.
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).
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% 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 the Sabah Tourism Board.
He commended the 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,” he said.
Joniston said 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,” he said.
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 a 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.