Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Sarawak to have own airline company to tap tourism potential

Sarawak government is serious about setting up its own airline company to connect the state with strategic locations in the region such as Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong and Jakarta.
(Bernama photo)

KUCHING: Sarawak government is serious about setting up its own airline company to connect the state with strategic locations in the region such as Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong and Jakarta.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg said Sarawak was wealthy in terms of cultural heritage and nature attractions but limited air connectivity remained a challenge to further develop and boost its domestic and international tourism.

“Tourists nowadays prefer direct flights which are more convenient and time-saving. So, when they need to transit either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to come here, they do not make Sarawak their priority,” he said.

Although several airlines opened up new routes to connect the state to international destinations in the past, it did not sustain.

“They (airline companies) always pull out halfway which I wasn’t happy about. I understand they have their concerns as it is a business after all. But we need more time to build up a sustainable tourist flow,” said Abang Johari, who is also the state’s former tourism minister.

“So we are very serious in setting up own airline company, not a big one but enough to connect us to a few major and potential destinations,” he said.

“In fact, this is not something new as we had wanted to take over MASwings from Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) but the negotiation did not go through. I believe one of the reasons was that MAB was worried we might become their competition once we take over MASwings,” he added.

Speaking at a press conference after the launch of the “Air Asia Sarawak Campaign Livery” at the Kuching International Airport (KIA) here, the Chief Minister said the plane livery includes a whole plane wrap as well as advertising panels inside the cabin on overhead lockers and the meal trays.

The branding exercise will be featured for at least two years to where Air Asia flies to, and to all regional airspaces and airports including Southern China.

The plane will fly up to 17 hours a day throughout the region, and with an average load factor of 80 percent and the campaign messages are expected to be seen by at least 50 million passengers annually.

Despite being the largest state in the country, the KIA is connected with international destinations - Singapore, Brunei and Pontianak. Kuching-Shenzhen direct flight, which was launched in October 2017 will pull out end of the month.

Apart from that, Sarawak government is also working on a master plan to upgrade the facilities in the national parks to provide a more comfortable experience for the visitors.

The industry players were also told to be more aggressive in their promotion and marketing efforts as more needs to be done to tap the country’s tourism potential to boost the economy.


One of the main Visit Sarawak Campaign 2019 objectives was to increase 4.6 million visitors recorded last year to five million by the end of 2019, said Abang Johari.
-nst online.

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