KOTA KINABALU, 7 March 2022: Sabah invites airline companies to make the state their operational base as Malaysia anticipates reopening its border soon.

Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said that given Sabah’s past success and prospects, all stakeholders should collaborate to identify and seize new possibilities to revitalise the international tourism industry.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Sabah was accessible via direct flights from 20 major international cities with over 220 flights weekly, especially from the North Asia region.

“On top of that, there are more than 400 domestic flights connecting 10 destinations in Malaysia. As many nations are opening their borders starting March, we believe Malaysia will soon follow suit.

“In this respect, I invite all airlines to consider Sabah to be your next hub of the operation,” he said during a dinner with Airline Operators Committee hosted by the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) here on Friday.

Joniston, who chairs STB, expressed optimism that the international travel business would recover, albeit not in the same way as it had been previously.

He added airlines’ participation and support are essential to help promote the state and to re-establish collaboration on new access into Sabah.

Present at the dinner were representatives from both local and international airline companies.

Meanwhile, Airline Operators Committee chairman Mohamad Azri Mohammad Rashad stated that the Air Asia, Malindo Air, and MAS flights for the Kuala Lumpur-Kota Kinabalu route recorded high loads.

“For the past few weeks, most of the flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu have 70-80% loads. It’s quite a high number.

“In fact, there are three to four flights for Sabah in a day as compared to Johor Bahru, Alor Setar, Kota Bharu, and Terengganu. So, I feel honoured to be here, and at the same time, we want to continue stimulating the economy,” he said.

Mohamad further stated that the border is expected to open soon, noting that the committee team was involved in planning and implementing standard operating procedures with the assistance of Malaysia Airports, the Ministry of Health, and Tourism Malaysia on 26 February.

This is Airline Operators Committee’s second visit to Sabah, which was initially scheduled for 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic.

For more information visit: www.sabahtourism.com