THE Sabah State Government wants to tap into the strengths of the Philippine tourism industry to draw more tourists to visit the coastal city of Kota Kinabalu and help boost its position as the state’s “nature resort” capital.
Y.B. Datuk Teo Chee Kang, speaking on behalf of Chief Minister Datuk Deri Panglima Musa Haji Aman, said seeing the two governments work together could be beneficial to their respective tourism industries.
“I wish to call on everyone involved in the tourism and service industry to work together in promoting Sabah not only as a tourist destination but also as a hub for meetings and trade shows, further boosting the economy,” Kang said during the press conference following the inaugural flight of AirAsia Zest from Cebu to Kota Kinabalu last Dec. 19.
Tourism is one of the State’s three thrusts of development agenda and is constantly being pushed in federal-led plans, such as the Economic Transformation Programme. Kota Kinabalu gets over two million visitors every year, with Chinese, Korean and Japanese nationals as its top three markets, respectively.
Kota Kinabalu is known for its most famous landmark, the Mount Kinabalu, and usually attracts tourists who are into outdoor adventure. The city itself, however, boasts of cultural and architectural scenes.
Kang said that having more flights to Kota Kinabalu from other Asian destinations and even Australia helps promote more travel and open more business opportunities in the state.
“It would be almost impossible for tourism in Sabah to flourish without direct connectivity to regional destinations,” he said, adding that AirAsia Zest’s direct flight from Cebu to Kota Kinabalu is seen to create more opportunities specifically in the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines – East Asean Growth Area.
“It (promoting tourism to Kota Kinabalu) is just a matter of packaging it,” Kang said during the press conference following the launch at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
By launching direct flights from Cebu to Kota Kinabalu, AirAsia Philippines CEO Maan Hontiveros said they hope to address concerns on poor connectivity and high fares among travelers based in Malaysia and other parts of the region.
“We are very, very bullish about this new route. We hope to build a truly great-value airline that will serve the needs of Filipino travelers and overseas workers,” she said, adding that they will be launching more flights to key Asian destinations in 2014.
The new route, said AirAsia Berhad CEO Aireen Omar during the press conference, helps enhance “bilateral ties between the Philippines and Malaysia and establishes a closer relationship between both communities.”
Hontiveros said they chose to open a direct flight to Kota Kinabalu from Cebu because of the volume of traffic from the southern part of the Philippines.
AirAsia Zest flies to Kota Kinabalu from Cebu three times weekly using the Airbus A320.