Korean arrivals helping Sabah's tourism recovery

Datuk Joniston Bangkuai (green shirt) welcoming Air Busan passengers at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport alongside Noredah Othman (right) and Sunif Naiman (left) on Friday (June 24).

KOTA KINABALU: The arrival of more guests from Korea has given Sabah’s tourism sector a much-needed shot in the arm following a slump due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is after the resumption of the direct flight from Seoul to Kota Kinabalu by Air Busan, the second Korean-based low-cost airline to resume direct flights from the Korean capital post pandemic, after Jin Air on May 26.

The Air Busan BX 767 flight from Incheon International Airport with 196 passengers onboard arrived at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIE) here and was greeted with a water cannon salute at 11.10pm on Friday (June 24).

Sabah Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai was on hand to greet the passengers, all of whom were Korean tourists.

"With the arrival of Korean airlines in Sabah, we are seeing a slight improvement in Korean arrivals.

"Koreans' willingness and confidence to return to Sabah is a great indication for us.

"While we want to promote Sabah to international visitors, we also want to encourage locals to take advantage of this direct flight and explore Korea," said Bangkuai, who is also Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman.

STB chief executive officer Noredah Othman and KKIA senior airport manager Sunif Naiman were also present to distribute welcome souvenirs.

Air Busan currently operates two weekly flights to Kota Kinabalu, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Another Korean Low-Cost Airline, Jeju Air, is expected to restart direct flights to Sabah on June 29. For the time being, all three airlines will depart via Incheon.

Bangkuai and Noredah were in Seoul in early May to meet with top officials of Jin Air, Air Busan, Jeju Air and several other Korean airlines as well as two top Korean travel companies Mode Tour and Hana Tour.

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