KUCHING: A Hong Kong airline company is interested to mount scheduled direct flights to here, said Sarawak Tourism Minister, Datuk Amar Abang Abdul Rahman Johari Tun Abang Openg.
Abang Johari said the ministry has concluded negotiations with the company and a memorandum of understanding would be signed on Dec 18.
He said HK was a strategic hub with good interconnection with southern China, South Korea and Japan and the HK-Kuching sector could result in more Chinese tourists coming to the state, as Chinese nationals would always visit HK first before travelling overseas.
"Also, the e-visa facility for Chinese tourists, which will be implemented from Jan 2, 2016 will further boost Malaysia's tourism sector," he said in his winding-up speech at the Sarawak State Assembly sitting here today.
On state tourism, Abang Johari said, the downtrend of arrivals at national level has also affected arrivals to Sarawak.
He said from January to October this year, Sarawak received 3.747 million visitors, bringing in estimated tourism receipts of RM8.24 billion, down 4.9 per cent compared with the same period last year.
The Asean countries still topped the number of arrivals to Sarawak followed by UK, China and Australia, he said.
"However, based on past trend of average arrivals for November to December, my ministry anticipates 4.8 million visitor arrivals this year," he said.
Abang Johari said for January till November, Sarawak hosted 52 conferences which brought in 15,830 delegates and generated a total estimated delegate expenditure of RM31.1 million.
Over the years Kuching's ranking as a business event destination within the Asia-Pacific and Middle East has improved. It now ranks 20th, with 23 international meetings, ahead of Abu Dhabi, Manila, Auckland, Jakarta and Adelaide as compared to 28th in the previous year.
"The ranking evaluation is done by the International Congress and Convention Association based on the bids won and stringent criteria," he said.
He said the state Tourism Ministry would continue to encourage more rural community participation in the tourism industry through the Homestay- and Community-Based Tourism (CBET) programmes.
CBET stressed conservation of natural resources and environment, while homestay provided tourists with the unique opportunity to experience the local community lifestyle, food and cultural activities, he said.
"To date, 31 villages, involving 477 operators, have registered under the Homestay Programme. As of September this year, the programme has attracted a total of 23,491 visitors of which 4,357 were foreigners and 19,132 locals, an increase of 2.15 per cent compared to the same period in 2014.
The estimated revenue generated under this programme within that period was RM2.5 million," he said. -- BERNAMA
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