KOTA KINABALU, June 11 — Sabah is set to bring in some 200,000 more Chinese tourists from cities located in the northern part of China.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said that the state government was working on setting up long-term charter flights that would connect cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, Zhengzhou, Nanjing, Chongqing, Xi'an, Wuhan, Shijiazhuang and Shenyang directly to Kota Kinabalu.
She said the initiative involves local company Cekal Aman Sdn Bhd working with its China flight charter partner, BJ ST International Travel Co Ltd, a major operator responsible for bringing northern Chinese tourists to beach and island cities like Jeju in South Korea, and Nha Trang and Da Nang in Vietnam.
“Against this scenario, we must capitalise on northern China’s outbound tourism by wooing these tourists to make Sabah their preferred holiday destination,” she said during a visit by Cekal Aman officials yesterday.
Liew is also Sabah’s tourism, culture and environment minister.
Cekal Aman operations director Aaron Chang said Sabah could benefit from the relatively new northern Chinese tourist market if tourists could start flying in three months, after getting the necessary paperwork for the chartered flights.
The first batch would see some 200,000 tourists in the first year, of which some 50,000 to 100,000 tourists would be diverted to Sabah’s east coast districts of Tawau and Semporna.
“Our forecast for the second year is between 350,000 and 400,000 tourists,” he said.
Chang said there was a need for more 3- to 5-star hotels to cater to the anticipated influx of northern Chinese tourists in the next 10 years.
Last year, Sabah saw some 594,000 Chinese tourists visit the state, which makes up about 44 per cent of its total international tourist arrivals.