SARAWAKIANS can expect Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to operate more international routes to and from Kuching next year.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan yesterday said the destinations include Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, Seoul in South Korea and Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei.
The Tourism and Heritage Minister also said MAS would commence its flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Osaka’s Kansai Airport and Seoul’s Incheon Airport into Kuching via Kota Kinabalu in Sabah from mid January next year.
“AirAsia will operate Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan in 2011. We are also advocating that MASwings be allowed to operate Kuching-Pontianak, Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan and Mulu-Bandar Seri Begawan routes on a commercial basis,” said Dr Chan in his winding-up speech at the State Legislative Assembly yesterday.
Apart from that, Firefly would be flying into the capital city from January next year, he said.
Dr Chan pointed out that enhancing accessibility and connectivity was crucial in helping the state achieve its target of 4 million tourists next year.
Hence, the state government had entered into discussions with Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd to provide incentives to foreign airlines in terms of free landing and discounts on airport charges, he revealed.
“The federal government has been supportive in liberalising the air services agreement with foreign countries and the opening up of Sarawak through reciprocal open sky policy. The state continues to engage airlines as part of its strategy to collaborate in destination promotion efforts and contributed marketing support funds as part of the joint promotion to bring more tourists,” he explained.
He added that the state government is currently having discussions with airlines to improve transit time at airports such as Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Changi International Airport in Singapore.
Although this year has been an encouraging year for tourism industry worldwide, tourists arrival for the state from January to August this year saw a decline of 1.5 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Dr Chan pointed out that the notable decline was from foreign countries, which decreased by 12 per cent, although the number of domestic tourists had increased by 17 per cent.
In order to attract more foreign tourists to the state, Sarawak Tourism Board had engaged aggressive promotions overseas such as in Singapore, Japan and South Korea, he said.
Apart from that, Tourism and Heritage Ministry had planned to increase the number of tourist related events next year, particularly city events.
Dr Chan pointed out that most tourist events such as Rainforest World Music Festival, Sarawak Regatta and Miri International Jazz Festival had been successful in attracting a lot of visitors.
“My ministry has completed compiling the Calendar of Events for 2011 which is scheduled to be launched next week. With this calendar, tourists and locals can decide which events to visit so that early bookings for flights, accommodation and tickets can be made,” he said.
He added that the ministry had intensified its effort to improve professionalism and competency of tourist guides and taxi drivers.
A proposed new Sarawak Tourist Guide Syllabus, which was designed specially for Sarawak guides to be better conversant with local knowledge and tourist attractions, is now pending approval from the Tourism Ministry.
“My ministry has concluded a state-wide taxi driver’s course. It has given them better knowledge of the tourist industry and their contributions towards improving the industry.
“There is still more to be done for taxi drivers and other service providers which include producing simple brochures and CDs to help them improve their tourism knowledge and communication skills,” Dr Chan said.