KOTA KINABALU: Chinese tourists are expected to make a long awaited return to Sabah with China's move to ease its border restrictions soon.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin said the reopening of the country’s borders will allow two airlines - China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines - to resume their direct flights into the state.
Jafry said the influx of foreign visitors, particularly from China, were important to help boost the state tourism industry so it could return to the pre-pandemic times.
“Among the positive reactions received were that Chinese tourists were looking forward to their international borders to fully reopen so they could travel to Sabah,” he said during a meeting with several Chinese airlines senior officials in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday (Aug 4).
Among those present during the meeting were China Southern Airlines general manager Eric Wang, China Eastern Airlines general manager Lu Jing, China Air Yin general manager Yin Jian Min and Xiamen Airlines sales manager Gao Yashuang.
Jafry said Sabah received 593,623 visitors from China in 2018.
The number increased to 598,566 the following year, he said, before the Sabah government had to halt international travel due to Covid-19.
As such, he hoped more tourists from China will return to Sabah soon and help to boost the tourism sector which has been significantly impacted by the pandemic.
On Wednesday (Aug 3), it was reported that China will resume quarantine-free travel with Macau as the city recovers from its worst ever Covid-19 outbreak.