Thursday, August 6

Call to consider suspending all Wuhan direct flights affects tourism — Satta

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Datuk Seri Winston Liaw

KOTA KINABALU: Kiulu assemblyman cum Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) information chief Datuk Joniston Bangkuai’s call to the State Government to consider suspending all daily direct flights from Wuhan to Sabah amid the outbreak of the mysterious coronavirus in the Chinese city was an extreme measure that will have a major impact on the tourism industry, said Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) president Datuk Seri Winston Liaw.

“We do not need to take such measure out of panic yet because this will have a huge impact on tourism players.”

He said that when commenting on Joniston’s call to the State Government to exercise greater caution and responsibility in handling the outbreak of Sars-like virus in Wuhan and seriously consider suspending all daily direct flights from the Chinese city to Sabah.

Nevertheless, Liaw stressed the importance of screening foreign tourists who arrived at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) for any symptoms of the disease.

He said there were at least eight direct flights from Wuhan to the state capital every week.

“AirAsia flies from Wuhan to Kota Kinabalu daily, whereas Malindo Air has one to three flights weekly.” On another note, Liaw said Airbnb operators here had received cancellation requests on their bookings amid the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus, albeit a small number.

He said local travel agencies had also received calls from clients on cancelling their upcoming outbound trip.

“If the Malaysian government has issued a ban on travelling to Wuhan or China, then travel agencies can request for refunds from airlines on the tickets we have booked and subsequently return the money to our clients.

“Travel agencies are unable to refund the flight tickets to clients if the airlines are not suspending their flights to Wuhan,” he explained.

He said some clients had decided to go ahead with their trip since refund on their flight tickets was not possible.

That said, Liaw pointed out that most Satta members booked flights to Wuhan because the city was a transit point to Zhangjiajie.

“As our clients arrive in Wuhan airport, they will be taken to a hotel at the outskirts of the city and leave for Zhangjiajie the next morning.

“The risks of contracting the virus is lower because our tours are not travelling in Wuhan city,” he assured.