Hong Kong Airlines' abrupt suspension of its twice-weekly services between Hong Kong and Kuching effective February 25 has taken the Sarawak trade by surprise.
The airline's chief commercial officer/director, Li Dian Chun, had issued a notification last month about the cessation of service, although a reason was not stated.
Gracie V Geikie, Sarawak Exco for Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) expressed shock at the announcement as the route was just inaugurated nine months earlier in May 2016.
She said: “This is a great loss as the (Sarawak) business community has just started inking collaborations and MoUs to spur trade and business development. It’s a pity the airline did not seek industry engagement before calling off this route.
“We will have to go back to the drawing board and look at linkage strategies again to put on our destination profile for organisers planning their meetings and conferences in Kuching," she added.
Geikie also voiced her concerns if other airlines would still be inclined to mount services to Sarawak, a culture and nature destination, as opposed to other beach destinations that tend to attract travellers faster.
Taking a more acquiescent stance, Mary Wan Mering, director at Sarawak Tourism Board, commented: “Our initial agreement with the airline was to service the route for three years. However, the airline has made a commercial decision and we have to accept it. It will not upset our overall marketing strategy for China which is to attract charter flights.”