KOTA KINABALU: A total of 21,541 visitors from South Korea came to Sabah in January alone, almost 40% of the 55,152 tourists from that country who visited the state for the whole of last year.
“The South Korean market is so important to us that it was the first country the Sabah Tourism Board team visited when borders reopened in April last year to engage with airlines and travel agents there,” said Datuk Joniston Bangkuai (pic).
The state Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said the surge in tourists was largely thanks to the increase in scheduled direct flights into Sabah.
“And of course, this could not have been possible without a close engagement (with Korean airlines),” he said, adding Kota Kinabalu was also well connected via Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, China, Taipei and Brunei.
Bangkuai, who is also the Sabah Tourism Board chairman, was speaking at an interview with the media team from the South Korea-based Coceuco company, which organised an incentive trip to Sabah for 450 top achievers.
Coceuco manufactures and sells multi-functional skin care products under the brand Repove.
On flight frequency, Bangkuai said there were currently 30 weekly direct flights from South Korea into Sabah, with Kota Kinabalu connecting via Incheon and Busan.
This is in contrast to the previous year, when there were only 16 weekly flights between Kota Kinabalu and Incheon.
He added that Sabah’s islands, beaches and golf courses were popular among the South Korean tourists.
Prior to the pandemic, Sabah registered 396,700 tourists from South Korea in 2019 and 337,100 in 2018, the second most international arrivals after China.