New Sabah-China links to boost visitor numbers

TRADE players in East Malaysia are excited that the recent boost in new air services linking Sabah and China will pave for more robust two-way traffic between the two destinations.

AirAsia will begin daily services between Kota Kinabalu and Wuhan from January 22, 2016, while China Southern Airlines will introduce thrice-weekly flights from Guangzhou to Kota Kinabalu from December 1.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines and Universal Charter have entered into an agreement to operate 180 charter flights between Kota Kinabalu and Tianjin, Nanning and Chengdu from December 15 until March 31, 2016.

Earlier, Spring Airlines resumed four-times weekly charter flights between Shanghai and Sabah since October 25.

Welcoming the surge in China-Sabah air links, Mint Leong, managing director of Sunflower Holidays, said: “We have come out with new Sabah itineraries involving islands and beach holidays. Sabah is an easy sell as it has lovely beaches and clear waters.”

Malaysian outbound players are also keen to tap the new air connections to venture into other parts of China.

Apple Vacations & Conventions group managing director, Desmond Lee, said: “The new flights allow us to do quality in-depth tours to exotic locations. For example, from Chengdu we can go further and include tours to Tibet and from Wuhan we can also offer Yangtze cruises.”

Recognising a potential challenge in getting traffic from Kota Kinabalu’s small outbound market, Mayflower Acme Tours deputy general manager – channel management, Abdul Rahman Mohamed, commented: “We welcome the charter flights but the charterers should get the Malaysian outbound travel agents involved to form a consortium to fill up the empty leg from Kota Kinabalu to China.”

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