KOTA KINABALU, 19 April 2022: Singapore will continue to be a key market and an important hub for Sabah following the return of direct international flights between the city-state and Kota Kinabalu.

Sabah’s Kinabalu International Airport welcomed its first international flight with a water cannon salute after an absence of two years. The AirAsia aircraft (Flight AK1794) landed from Singapore on Saturday carrying 119 passengers, of which 30% were Singaporeans.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister cum Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai was on hand to greet them upon their arrival.

“I would like to commend AirAsia for being the first airline to reopen international flights for Sabah…this is a momentous occasion for all involved.

“Singapore is a very important market to Sabah as it has been our focus market for many years now, and it is also a highly important hub for Sabah as it connects out other focus markets around the world into Sabah,” he said.

Noting Singaporeans’ love of nature, diving, and adventure, Joniston said Singaporeans can now look forward to travelling to Sabah and indulging in their passions once more with the reinstatement of the Singapore – Kota Kinabalu route.

Joniston said his ministry, through the Sabah Tourism Board, planned several promotional initiatives to entice Singaporeans to return to Sabah.

From 22 to 28 April, Sabah Tourism Board and Sabah’s tourism industry players will join the Travel Malaysia Digital Fair to kick-start promotions.

“Through this Fair, the Singaporean consumers will be presented with a selection of tourism products and stays. We received strong support from the Sabah industry players as well, whereby they highlight their popular packages such as wildlife, nature, and adventure.

“Looking back to a pre-pandemic time, the fair has managed to attract many Singaporeans to Sabah, and we are confident this trend will return as currently, enquiries from Singapore regarding Sabah tourism packages have already started to pour in,” said Joniston.

The Smart Locals, one of Singapore’s leading online publishers, will link the event’s platform to a Sabah digital campaign to help the state’s tourism players succeed at the Travel Malaysia Digital Fair, he added.

According to Joniston, the low-cost carrier AirAsia has been an important contributor to Sabah’s economy through tourism and hospitality since its presence in 2001.

“I am pleased to learn that AirAsia has expanded its offerings beyond flights and is now home to several thriving e-commerce ventures, namely its one-stop platform, the AirAsia Super App.

“In line with the transition to an endemic phase, I believe that this resumption of international flights comes at the right time for both tourists and locals in Sabah, who have been excitedly anticipating and planning their travels,” he said.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Sabah received 126,000 passengers through Singapore, with 34,000 Singaporean travellers.

Meanwhile, AirAsia (airlines) chief commercial officer Tan Mai Yin stated that the airline is currently operating thrice-weekly flights between Singapore and Kota Kinabalu, with daily flights beginning on 29 April.

“We are also reviewing direct flights from Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia to Kota Kinabalu. We are excited about this, and we will announce a further update,” she said.

Tan added that they expected the direct route from Thailand and the Philippines to begin in the first half of this year, with the rest following in the second half.

Present at the event were the state’s tourism ministry Permanent Secretary Datuk Mohd Yusrie Abdullah; Tourism Malaysia Deputy Chairman Datuk Seri Dr Anil Jeet Singh Sandhu; Sabah Tourism Board chief executive officer Noredah Othman;  and Tourism Malaysia Sabah director Ednie Rahma Ab Rahim, among others.

For more information visit https://www.sabahtourism.com/?locale=en

(Your Stories: Sabah Tourism Board)

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