KOTA KINABALU: South Korean-based low-cost airline T’way Air has marked its first-ever direct flight from Incheon to Kota Kinabalu, boosting international connectivity to Sabah.
The flight, which carried 188 passengers from Incheon, strengthened links between South Korea and the state, which continues to see growing numbers of international visitors through direct flights.
State Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said it was important for this international connectivity to be enhanced.
“Having more international direct flights creates a vital balance that not only benefits our tourism industry but also fuels economic growth in Sabah.
“By enhancing connectivity, we are opening doors for more visitors to experience the natural wonders and cultural heritage that Sabah offers while generating employment opportunities and driving sustainable development,” Bangkuai said after welcoming the South Korean tourists at Kota Kinabalu International Airport on Monday (June 19).
Currently, Sabah is connected to 10 international cities, namely Singapore, Bandar Seri Begawan, Taipei, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Incheon, Busan and Manila.
South Koreans, Bangkuai said, have consistently shown a keen interest in exploring Sabah’s natural wonders and make up a large proportion of international visitors to the state.
STB registered 68,685 South Korean visitors from January to April, compared to 720 arrivals in the same period last year.
The debut of T’way Air’s direct flight is expected to boost this trend and build even stronger tourism linkages between the two destinations, Bangkuai added.
He noted that the surge in South Korean tourists underscores the growing popularity of Sabah as a preferred destination.
He added that STB has two events planned in the near future aimed at attracting international participants, including from South Korea: the Asian Dive Expo (Adex) and the Asian Bird Festival.
Sabah’s commitment to hosting these events showed its determination to become a preferred destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers, he said.
T’way Air, which began as Hansung Airlines, is among the largest South Korean low-cost carrier in the international market.
In addition to the T’way Air flight, Sabah is expected to receive more direct flights in the coming months.
Shanghai Airlines is scheduled to reinstate its daily direct flights on July 12, offering further connectivity with Shanghai.
AirAsia also plans to commence routes from Beijing to Kota Kinabalu (daily) on July 12 and from Macau to Kota Kinabalu (four times weekly) on July 16.
Jin Air will upgrade its aircraft from the B738 to the B777, with a maximum capacity of 393 passengers instead of 189 starting in July.
– The Star