KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has been receiving an increasing number of Korean tourists every year.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said in 2013, Korean arrivals in Sabah increased by 32.1 per cent to 106,213. During the first 10 months of 2014, Korean tourist arrivals in the state increased by 16.8 per cent from 84,333 to 98,483.
Masidi said there were three airlines operating direct from Incheon (South Korea) to Kota Kinabalu presently. They are Asiana Airlines, Jin Air and Easterjet.
“We receive 18 flights with 3,158 seats weekly. As of now, Sabah Tourism Board is currently in serious discussion with Asiana Airlines to get direct flights from Busan to Kota Kinabalu. Should this plan materialises, we expect to further increase the Korean arrivals to Sabah,” he said during the grand opening of the Hana Tour Service (M) Sdn Bhd’s first office near here yesterday.
He said the numbers indicated good performance.
“However, we are cautious and will double our efforts to reach more tourists from Korea in the future,” he added.
Masidi also said his ministry, through Sabah Tourism, would encourage more airlines and chartered flights, especially from Korea to Sabah.
“The state government will continue to develop and improve new tourism products and facilities to ensure sustainable tourism and maintaining Sabah’s position as a key tourist destination,” he said, adding that this year, Sabah Tourism would work closely with Hanatour and Ibis Styles Waterfront Sandakan to promote Sandakan to the Korean market.
He added that Sandakan was known as the nature gateway for Sabah, famous for her wildlife viewing experience.
Meanwhile, Hanatour is the top wholesale tour agent and trend-setter in the Korean market. It has over 3,000 retail agents in Korea, promoting solely Hanatour tour packages around the world.
Hanatour began promoting Sabah in 2002 with charter flights during the summer and winter seasons with Asiana Airlines and Korean Air for three years.
As a result of an average 90 per cent flight load, both airlines decided on direct schedule flights between Seoul and Kota Kinabalu, starting 2005.
Also present at the event was Datuk Irene Charuruks, general manager of Sabah Tourism Board.