‘New route will make HK gateway to Borneo’


KUCHING: With the papers inked for the twice-weekly Hong Kong-Kuching-Hong Kong route starting April 2016, the local tourism has some work ahead in preparing to receive visitors from Hong Kong and Southern China.

Planet Borneo Group of Companies’ director/principal consultant Gracie Geikei is happy to see that the Hong Kong-Kuching sector is back again.

“This will open up markets, making Hong Kong the gateway to Borneo – if we align our tourism marketing efforts to support this,” she told The Borneo Post. She added that the influx of tourists was very much dependent on the local tourism operators and stakeholders and how the tourism board could work with them to synergise their marketing efforts.

“Engagement and execution are vital to ensure we do not miss this opportunity. There have been too many international flights coming in, only to pull out because of poor load.” Gracie opined there were tremendous opportunities for working expatriates in China to visit Sarawak.

“This route will open new growth for Sarawak.” Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Sarawak chairman Chris Kon said local hoteliers and travel agents were excited about the new airline coming into the city.

“It’s a good start and a good move as now there are very limited direct flights into Kuching. Hong Kong is the gateway for China. It is also an international connection to other parts of the world.”

Kon, a tourism industry veteran of 25 years, pointed out that this was not only good for tourism but also for business, especially China businesses with an interest in investing here.

“Our only concern is not to look inbound alone but to promote Sarawak to the world through Hong Kong. There is great potential for inbound. Hong Kong is a concrete jungle. Sarawak is their gateway to nature, culture and adventure.”

He said they must strike a balance in business to keep the route sustainable for the airline.

“In getting Sarawakians to go to China, we still must look into timing and the airfare being offered,” he said, adding that locals here would go if there were good packages available.

Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) chairman Datuk Talib Zulpilip said any additional flight coming in was good for tourism, especially from a market as big and expanding as China.

Their priority, in short, is to make sure their guests go home and tell their friends about the very pleasant stay they had in Sarawak and how SEDC facilities were part of the experience.

SEDC manages several major hotels in Kuching and across Sarawak, as well as must-visit tourist attractions such as Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV).

“The SEDC Group would like to provide value-for-money facilities and amenities to our guests. The service would be assured and courteous,” he told The Borneo Post.

Talib, also tourism assistant minister, said Sarawak had much to offer to Chinese tourists: greenery, open space, culture, food and a common heritage.

“Language is no problem.”

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and Hong Kong Airlines was signed last December 18.

The board was represented by its chief executive officer Datu Ik Pahon Joyik, who is also permanent secretary to the Tourism Ministry. Hong Kong Airlines strategy and planning commercial department manager Andre Zhang signed on behalf of the airline company.

Hong Kong Airlines is a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines Ltd.

Under the MoU, Hong Kong Airlines would fly passengers on board its 174-seat A320 flight via the Hong Kong-Kuching-Hong Kong route twice weekly.

According to Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, STB would leverage on STF and Matta Sarawak to facilitate partnerships with Sarawak’s outbound agents in ensuring that the seats for the outbound leg would be equally attended to, including engaging agents in Pontianak to highlight the availability of this direct flight to potential passengers in West Kalimantan.