KUCHING: The keen interest shown in Sarawak by Korean tour operators, augurs well for the state, with the new Kuching-Seoul direct flight expected to open the floodgate for tourists from that country.
Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) marketing director Benedict Jimbau said this was reflected through the presence of senior representatives of Korea’s top three tour operators at the 11-day STB North Asia Road Show in Seoul, which ended on Tuesday.
The destination seminar and business matching session held at the Lotte Seoul Hotel on the last day saw 76 local Korean operators attending, including senior management from the three top operators — Mode Tour, Hanna Tour and Lotte Tour.
Jimbau, who led the delegation, said in a statement here yesterday that the event was also attended by Malaysia Airlines area manager Korea, Lee Weng Chi and Tourism Malaysia Seoul’s office director, Mohd Amirul Rizal.
Sarawak was represented by six representatives from a hotel, tour operator, home stay operator and a restaurateur.
Meanwhile, Lee expressed confidence that the inaugural direct flight from Incheon International airport in Seoul to Kuching in mid-January next year, would pave the way for bringing in more Korean tourists into Sarawak.
“For now, we have a sizeable number of Koreans, who have been travelling using the Seoul-Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu as stop-overs to Kuching,” he said.
He was optimistic the new direct flight would give opportunities for Koreans to discover the wonders of nature and cultural heritage that Sarawak has to offer.
However, he said, the flights must be sustained to make it a commercial viability, through an aggressive tourism promotion initiative in Korea.
Commenting on the inaugural flight, STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said it would signal a new strategic approach in STB’s marketing efforts in Korea.
“We are indeed pleased to support this initiative and will be partnering Malaysia Airlines and Tourism Malaysia to create a long-term plan to bring in Korean tourists to the state and at the same time, sustain the route in future,” he added.
Sarawak received a total of 5,050 Korean visitors in 2008 and recorded a marginal decrease with 5,036 arrivals the following year.
The direct flight will see Malaysia Airlines using its new 737-800 aircraft, which can accommodate up to 160 passengers. — Bernama