Tourism Ministry using charter flights to overcome connectivity problem

THE state government has taken several steps to address the problem of air connectivity faced by its tourism industry.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said connectivity to the state had always been a challenge.

To address this issue, he said his ministry, under the State Transformation Plan, had decided to pursue the charter flights approach from selected destinations.

“This initiative started as early as May this year with the signing of an agreement with Hong Kong Airlines which flies direct – Hong Kong/Kuching/Hong Kong.

“The inaugural flight took off on May 28. The twice weekly flights until August have

ferried 2,899 foreign passport holders into Sarawak. The average seat capacity carried by the airline into Sarawak for the period stood at 73 per cent,” Abang Johari said in his ministerial winding-up speech yesterday.

He said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) had also been signed with Taiwan-based See Mark Travel Services, an air charter company to mount flights in February (one charter flight) and the summer period of June to August (19 charter flights) next year.

“It is expected that the 20 chartered flights will bring in 3,200 tourists with an estimated tourism receipt of RM10.4 million.”

Abang Johari said in October this year, a similar MoU was also signed with a travel agent in Hebei, China to expand joint collaboration to ensure movement of tourists and tourism related business between Hebei Province and Sarawak.

Currently, he said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) is negotiating with several more China-based charter companies and airlines to mount charter flights to Sarawak.

“In our effort to position Miri as the entry hub for the Northern Region of Sarawak and to

provide ease of travel for tourists, the state government has exercised its autonomy on immigration by issuing special passes for visitors coming in via Miri Airport or Sungai Tujuh CIQs (immigration entry points).

“This is because Sungai Tujuh and Miri Airport are not gazetted as Visa on Arrival (VOA) entry points.”