Sabah welcomes first group of China tourists since borders reopened

Bangkuai welcoming tourists from China at the KKIA on Thursday (March 2).

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah welcomed its first direct flight from China since Covid-19 struck with 140 passengers from Guangzhou arriving here on Thursday (March 2).

The passengers arrived at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport at 5.30am on an AirAsia flight.

Sabah Assistant Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who is also Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman, was on hand to greet them.

He was accompanied by the ministry’s permanent secretary Datuk Mohd Yusrie Abdullah as well as Chinese Consul-General in Kota Kinabalu Huang Shifang and STB chief executive officer Noredah Othman.

AirAsia is also scheduled to fly passengers from Shenzhen to KKIA on Saturday (March 3).

Sabah anticipated the arrival of Chinese visitors earlier this year, but a holdup in issuing passports to Chinese citizens delayed the travel process.

“We are thrilled to have Chinese visitors back and we hope our industry players will continue to provide exceptional hospitality services to our guests,” said Bangkuai, adding that China was a key and important market for Sabah.

Sabah is anticipating an influx of Chinese tourists in the coming months with the expected increase of direct flights from several cities in China.

Prior to the pandemic, China was Sabah's leading international visitor source, with 598,566 Chinese visitors recorded in 2019.

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