Oriental aviation market Direct flights to Hong Kong and China being explored, says minister

Feel free to ask: Delegates from Indonesia’s Garuda Air attending to a visitor during Routes Asia 2014 in Kuching.

Feel free to ask: Delegates from Indonesia’s Garuda Air attending to a visitor during Routes Asia 2014 in Kuching.

KUCHING: Sarawak is in talks with three airlines based in Hong Kong and China to explore the possibility of direct flights.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state was striving to engage China Southern Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express to arrange for chartered flights to Sarawak for a start.

“We are exploring the possibility of mounting initially chartered flights, and once there is volume, upgrade it to scheduled flights,” he told a late press conference on Sunday after hosting a dinner for airline operators from China and Hong Kong, here for the Routes Asia 2014.

He said there had been many linkages between Sarawak, Hong Kong and China but unfortunately only via one route directly from Borneo, which was Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

He said despite the state’s strong links with China, the business community either had to travel via Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur.

This, according to him, gives the impression that the businessmen are Sabahans when in fact, a sizeable number of them are Sarawakians.

He said having established these business ties, what was left to do was to fill in the gap by improving air connectivity.

He said Sarawak would also be offering incentives of free landing for three years to the airlines should the plan materialise.

Johari said the state also wanted to go a step further by facilitating travels within Borneo for the business community from China and Hong Kong by issuing a three-in-one visa covering Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

He said with the visa, the business community would be permitted to travel between the three countries without much hassle.

“It’s like that pilot project between Cambodia and Thailand. Officially, we are discussing (this) with Brunei and on the Indonesian side, we are asking (Federal) Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz to talk to them,” he said.

He said if this materialised, then Sarawak would work with the tourism departments, Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Home Affairs Ministry.

Aside from this, Johari said he also learnt there was a catchment of some 100 million people along the Pearl River and there was a growing interest among the young for adventure, which was what Sarawak offered.

“In Hong Kong alone, the younger generation and expatriates there are fascinated by an adventure-type holiday. I will head to Hong Kong and China on April 7 to promote Sarawak aggressively,” he said.