KUCHING: Foreign arrivals in Sarawak continue to lag behind monthly highs achieved in 2014 and last year, new statistics from the Immigration Department show.
For April, total arrivals stood at 371,063 arrivals, about 10% lower than the 400,986 in the same month last year. Foreign arrivals stood at 182,411, while domestic visitors (non-Sarawakian Malaysians) were higher at 188,652.
In the first four months, Sarawak received just over 1.43 millions arrivals. Over the same period last year, there were 1.6 million arrivals, while in 2014 there were 1.47 million.
In terms of annual figures, 2014 remains the best performing year, with the 520,339 arrivals in December that year still being a record. Arrivals in the most recent December was down by 15.4%.
In April, Bruneians and Indonesians made up the vast majority of foreign arrivals: there were 115,951 Bruneian arrivals and 34,256 Indonesians.
Visitors from Hong Kong were the least that month at just 74, according to the stats. Nonetheless since then, a new Kuching-Hong Kong twice-weekly direct flight has been introduced, reportedly with loads of over 70%.
More recently, Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, revealed that talks were under way to have direct Kuching-Taipei flights.
Until April, there were 2,808 arrivals from Taiwan, or an average of about 600 a month, which is even lower than Japanese arrivals of about 1,000 a month.
“Sarawak is discussing with a group from Taiwan the possibility of establishing a Taipei-Kuching direct route. With all the airlines coming in, the tourism industry in Sarawak looks promising,” Johari said last week.
“The recently launched Hong Kong-Kuching route is promising. The load factor is between 75 and 80 per cent, particularly from Hong Kong and southern China. This means that market response to our promotion of Sarawak is very positive,” he added.
Johari said the government aimed for five million total arrivals this year.