More China tourists via KK-Hangzhou route

KOTA KINABALU: AirAsia’s decision to expand its connectivity from Kota Kinabalu to Hangzhou, China will contribute to the increasing number of tourists from China and Hong Kong to Sabah.

Tourism, culture and environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the arrival of international tourists from China and Hong Kong for the first five months of this year was up by 77.3 per cent compared to last year.

“The statistics had increased from 71,152 to 126,150 tourists, showing that China is a very important market for Sabah. For the past two consecutive years, China and Hong Kong recorded the highest international arrivals into Sabah,” he said in a press conference during the AirAsia inaugural Kota Kinabalu-Hangzhou flight at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) Terminal 2, yesterday.

Masidi said the ministry and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) will continue to work closely with each and all airlines that fly to Sabah.

“We have strong relationship with AirAsia. Even before AirAsia took its first flight, STB was already in discussion with this airline, formulating strategies to hub AirAsia in Kota Kinabalu. I am confident this partnership and cooperation will continue to grow further.

“The combined efforts from all parties including the Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad and the Ministry of Transport have made and positioned KKIA as the busiest airport in Malaysia, after KLIA. KKIA is the eastern gateway to Malaysia. It has a great potential to be the hub for AirAsia to fully tap the business prospects from northern Asia routes and Australia, saving on fuel and flight time,” he said.

Masidi added Hangzhou to Kita Kiabalu is about four hours flight, and is the fifth Chinese city to connect Sabah via a direct non-stop flight.

He said people from Hangzhou would appreciate going to the islands off Sabah, which are located 15 minutes away by boat from the city, water activities and fresh seafood.

“The Sabah government has worked with AirAsia for the last decade and will continue doing so. My ministry will work to further increase the number of air accessibility into Sabah to target 3.55 million arrivals and RM80 billion in tourism receipts by 2015,” Masidi added in his speech before the latest direct flight from Kota Kinabalu to Hangzhou, China took off on time at 4.10pm yesterday, with a healthy 85 per cent flight load.

The latest direct flight marks AirAsia’s 26th route into China and the fifth route from Kota Kinabalu to greater China. AirAsia has direct flights to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Taipei from Kota Kinabalu.

Apart from Masidi, AirAsia Berhad’s chief Executive officer (CEO), Aireen Omar, STB chairman chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, STB general manager Datuk Irene Charuruks and head of commercial AirAsia Berhad Kenny Wong were also present to send off the guests of the inaugural flight at KKIA Terminal 2.

Aireen, in her speech said AirAsia was committed towards enhancing connectivity from East Malaysia, and the direct flight from Kota Kinabalu-Hangzhou wouldl be a contributing factor towards making Sabah a major international hub for both business and leisure travellers.

“As this is the fifth route connecting China to Sabah, we hope that more tourists will be able to discover the beauty of Sabah through AirAsia.

“The route’s load factors for the upcoming months are on a steady growth rate, and we are confident this route will perform as expected. Apart from Kota Kinabalu, visitors from Hangzhou can also take advantage of our domestic connectivity in Sabah and fly to places such as Tawau, where they can enjoy one of the best dive sites in the world,” she added,

AirAsia is having a special promotion to mark this inaugural flight and a new direct route with all-in-fares from as low as RM289 one way from Kota Kinabalu-Hangzhou.

Guests can book this special rate online at www.airasia.com from yesterday until August 11, and travel between Sept 1, 2013 to Jan 23, 2014.

Hangzhou is one of the most scenic cities in China, with the famed West Lake at the forefront. The West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage List and is a must-visit for anyone to Hangzhou.

The nearby Zhejiang Province also houses the ‘Thousand Island Lake’ with 1078 islets surrounded with crystal clear water.

Hangzhou is also a gateway to the vibrant city of Shanghai, with great attractions such as ‘Xintiandi’ – a lifestyle centre with great shopping and nightlife.

Other shopping spots include The Bund, Shanghai’s iconic riverfront and the Shanghai Yuyuan Bazaar.

For those who prefer to explore cuisines while traveling, Hangzhou is famed for dishes such as the ‘xiaolongbao’ (buns with soup), ‘Yangchun’ noodles (longevity noodles), Fried Steamed Bun, West Lake Sweet & Sour Fish and many more.

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