Even More Chinese Tourists Due
The State can expect more Chinese tourists with even more direct flights from China over the next three months, said State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.
He said 62 chartered flights from China from one airline alone are expected to arrive in Kota Kinabalu over the next three months.
Sabah recorded 430,000 tourist arrivals from China last year, a 14.7 percent increase from 2016, Masidi told a press conference at KKIA after returning from Beijing on the Xiamen Airlines' inaugural direct flight on Tuesday, together with 163 passengers including Malaysian Ambassador to China Datuk Zainuddin Yahya.
The Xiamen Airlines Bejing-Kota Kinabalu route represents Xiamen Airlines second route to Kota Kinabalu with its Fuzhou-Kota Kinabalu route reportedly already running at 80 percent load since it started in January 2017.
Masidi said he was pleased that Xiamen Airlines had chosen Kota Kinabalu as its first international destination from Beijing adding that it was indicative of the good relationship between Malaysia and China and also the state and China.
He said the launching of this route shows that both sides are keen to venture into a regionally profitable venture.
Masidi hoped Sabahans would support the Chinese airlines as there was also a need to fill the space for the return trip to China after Chinese tourist arrives in the State.
"Any flights can only survive if it is economically viable where both sides like to travel, i.e. the Chinese come here and Sabahans go to China.
"We are fortunate because we are doing well in the Chinese market and I must thank the Consul General of China in Kota Kinabalu, Liang Caide, for his assistance.
"I believe what is good for Sabah is good for China and that is how we must look at a mutually rewarding relationship in the tourism sector."
Meanwhile to a question on the need to accommodate increasing tourism arrivals, Masidi said there was a need to provide enough quality hotel rooms.
"The State Government is fully aware of the situation and has decided to speed up the building of hotels and have tasked some companies to build more hotels," he said adding that the State Government, as well as tourism industry players, needed to be proactive to cater to the needs of tourist to the State.
Vice-President of the airline's Beijing branch, Ou Dong Ying said the number of Chinese tourists visiting Sabah grew steadily by about 20 percent annually.
She said the trend prompted the airline to serve its first international flight out of Beijing to Kota Kinabalu.
"We expect the new route to contribute to the growing demand of Chinese and expatriate holiday-makers to Sabah."
Meanwhile, Liang said Malaysia and China enjoyed long diplomatic ties and the relationship developed rapidly in recent years.
He said as one of China's youngest airlines, Xiamen Airlines' flight to Kota Kinabalu could further help Sabah's tourism industry development and enhance trade cooperation between Kota Kinabalu and Beijing.