KUCHING, Dec 30 — Hainan Airlines Holding Company Limited will launch its scheduled Haikou-Kuching-Haikou direct flight beginning in March next year, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the company and the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) here today.
State Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the proposal is for Hainan Airlines to operate two to three flights per week using B737-800 aircrafts, with 164 seats including eight business class seats.
“The airline now is on its final proposal stage of obtaining landing slots pending approval by the Civil Aviation Administration of both China and Malaysia,” he said in his speech at the signing of the MoU.
“With the latest development and initiative, we can move confidently to solve our connectivity challenges, which admittedly have been the main hindrance to our tourism development over the past years,” he added.
STB also signed another MoU with ATS Global Travel and Charter Sdn Bhd for a business proposal to make Kuching as an umrah hub for the region.
Under the MoU, ATS Global Travel is to provide umrah direct flights using Kuching as an alternative umrah gateway serving the route from Kuching to Jeddah and Kuching to Madinah.
“There will also be feeder flights from Indonesian cities in Kalimantan as well as from the island of Java, which are based on joint initiatives that will take off soon and we are hoping that it will materialise by March next year,” Karim said.
“As far as our aspirations and future plans are concerned, we are trying to develop Sarawak as an umrah hub that will serve the regional needs that are increasing, especially in the vast island of Borneo and nearby main islands of Indonesia.
“We can also see there is a huge potential in these efforts because of its spinoff effects where thousands of Muslims from many parts of this region are looking forward to fulfil their religious obligations and of course, there are also people who desire to travel for leisure and business purposes,” he said.
STB chief executive officer Sharzede Datuk Salleh Askor, in her speech, said in the course of due diligence to prepare for the umrah hub with ATS Global Travel, STB has engaged Tourism Malaysia’s office in Jakarta, various Indonesian airline companies, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad and also the Association of Indonesian Travel Agents (Asita).
ATS Global Travel has been ferrying over 100,000 pilgrims from throughout Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei since 2015.