Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) has signed memorandums of understanding (MoU) with Hainan Airlines and ATS Global Travel and Charter (ATS) as part of its ongoing efforts to develop Sarawak's tourism sector. The MoU with Hainan Airlines, will see the airline launch scheduled flights from Haikou-Kuching-Haikou with its inaugural direct flight scheduled in first quarter of 2020.
Meanwhile, the MoU with ATS, a Bumiputera wholly-owned Malaysian company offering chartered flights to Southeast Asian markets, aims to make Kuching City, a hub for Umrah, serving as a gateway for Umrah pilgrims from Kuching to Jeddah or Kuching to Madinah. These Umrah flights will be flying up to 300,000 pilgrims from Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. ATS will provide feeder flights from major Indonesian cities in Kalimantan and Jawa.
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak, YB Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said with this latest development and initiative, it can move confidently towards solving its connectivity challenges which has been the main hindrance to tourism development over the past years.
"This MoU clearly indicates the seriousness of the State Government in solving connectivity issues. We are also talking to other regional airlines who have expressed interest to connect Kuching to other hubs in the region," he said.
According to him, the MoU with ATS marks another milestone in the history of tourism development in Sarawak as this joint initiative will further boost the number of visitors, taking into consideration night-stop expenses, transfers, pre and post departure tours to and from the Holy land.
"It is our hope to create a hub for Umrah pilgrimage to serve the regional needs especially on the Island of Borneo and nearby Indonesian Islands. It is projected that the number of Umrah pilgrims will be translated into an additional annual revenue of up to RM150 million for Sarawak," he said.
Meanwhile, STB CEO Pn Sharzede Datu Hj Salleh Askor added that he is confident that the enhanced connectivity through this deal will see greater improvement in the number of visitors from China, giving them a chance to experience all that Sarawak has to offer, which cater to their specific interests. "Through this ‘Experiential Tourism’, we hope Sarawak would stand out and remain in their hearts and minds," he said.