Sunday, June 16

Govt aiming for more direct flights

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Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

KUCHING: The state government will continue its efforts to get more direct flights to Sarawak, assures Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youths and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

He said getting more air connectivity into the state is critical to achieve the government’s goal of boosting tourist arrivals into Sarawak.

“So far, the state government has succeeded in getting AirAsia, the world’s best low-cost airline, to increase its direct flights to Sarawak over the last three months. The airline is already operating direct flights from Pontianak, Indonesia to Kuching seven times weekly, and direct flights from Kuching to Langkawi four times weekly on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday,” he said in a press conference at his office here yesterday.

The Kuching-Pontianak route began in June while the Kuching-Langkawi direct flight was launched early this month.

“There will also be a flight from China via Vietnam soon. That one is a daily flight. That is going to be a big boost for us.”

Abdul Karim said the state government was trying very hard to get air connectivity into the state, but cannot rush to get them done until all the products available in the state are put in place.

The products – whether national parks, health facilities, food outlets or tourist guides – must first reach a level that is expected by the industry, he pointed out.

“We have to go progressively according to what we can offer because if there is a big influx of tourists to Sarawak and we have nothing to offer, that is also not good because the tourism industry is very sensitive.”

He reminded Sarawakians, especially the tourism players, to always accord everyone with the same level of reception and the same Sarawakian hospitality regardless of who they are, or which part of the country or the world they come from.

“I don’t want tourists to have unpleasant memories in Sarawak. I want them to come here and when they go back they have fond memories. With these fond memories, we don’t have to do the marketing. They will be doing the marketing.

“We don’t want them to go to the national park and complain about dirty and horrible toilets. We don’t want them to walk along the waterfront and (fall victim to) snatch (theft). We don’t want them get to the hotel and complain the hotel service is horrible,” he said.

When asked if the tourism tax would affect the state’s target of five million visitors’ arrival this year, Abdul Karim said it was not a big issue.

“I can say that we are already halfway across the mark. Now it is already August and as I mentioned a few weeks ago, the number of visitors to Sarawak has increased tremendously.

“Compared to last year, our visitors’ arrival for the first seven months this year has exceeded last year’s figure over the same period by over 100,000.

“With the progress that we are getting, plus more connectivity now, I’m very confident we are able to get five million tourist arrivals to Sarawak this year and even progress much higher next year.”