Sabah Welcomes Increased Connectivity From South Korea

Sabah Welcomes Increased Connectivity From South Korea

KOTA KINABALU: A Korean-based low-cost airline, T’way Air, made a milestone on Monday by debuting its first-ever direct scheduled flight from Incheon to Kota Kinabalu. The inaugural flight, which carried 188 passengers, further strengthened links between South Korea and Sabah as the state continues to draw international visitors.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment cum Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai was at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport to warmly welcome the passengers.

Joniston emphasised the importance of enhancing international connectivity to Sabah, recognising its immense value to the region.

“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 simultaneously generating employment opportunities and driving sustainable development,” he said.

South Koreans have consistently shown a keen interest in exploring Sabah’s natural wonders, evident in their dominant position as the top international visitors to the state. The Sabah Tourism Board registered 68,685 South Korean visitors between January and April this year compared to 720 arrivals in the same period last year.

The debut of T’way Air’s direct route is expected to accelerate this growing trend and build even deeper tourism linkages between the two destinations.

This surge in South Korean tourists underscores the growing popularity of Sabah as a preferred destination, fueled by its captivating natural wonders, cultural heritage, and renowned hospitality.

Sabah’s islands, beaches, and golf courses are popular among Korean tourists. They are also interested in diving and birding.

The Sabah Tourism Board has strategically planned two notable events – the Asian Dive Expo (ADEX) and the Asian Bird Festival – that aim to attract international participants, including from South Korea.

Sabah’s commitment to hosting these events underscores its dedication to becoming a premier destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers, added Joniston.

T’way Air, which initially began as Hansung Airlines, underwent reorganisation and rebranding in 2010. As of 2019, it was the third-largest Korean low-cost carrier in the international market.

The regional manager of T’way Air Kota Kinabalu station Kim Minkeun expressed enthusiasm about connecting travellers to Sabah, saying:

“Sabah has long been known for its captivating natural wonders, cultural heritage, and warm hospitality.

“As T’way Air spreads its wings to this remarkable destination, we aim to bring travellers closer to the magic of Sabah, creating memories that will last a lifetime,” he said.

The collaboration between Sabah Tourism Board and various airlines underscores the joint efforts to unlock the full potential of Sabah’s tourism industry. Currently, Sabah is connected to 10 international cities, namely Singapore, Bandar Seri Begawan, Taipei, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Incheon, Busan, and Manila.

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 daily direct flights to Sabah on July 2, offering further connectivity between Sabah and Shanghai.

AirAsia also plans to commence routes from Beijing to Kota Kinabalu (daily) on July 2 and from Macau to Kota Kinabalu (4 times weekly) on July 16. Additionally, 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 2023.

-Avila STB / DG

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