HONG KONG: Kuching is the first destination in Malaysia for Hong Kong Airlines that is expected to launch the inaugural Hong Kong-Kuching direct route come April 26.
Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state government was pleased that the new route is finally realised as Sarawak would not have to rely on Kuala Lumpur as a hub after April.
Besides Kuala Lumpur, he said most travellers from Sarawak would also use Singapore as an important hub.
“This direct flight from Hong Kong to Kuching will increase connectivity between Hong Kong and Kuching. It is also to address a lack of connectivity issue in Sarawak.
“Once launched, we will have two very important hubs — Hong Kong and Singapore.
“Tourists or those attending conventions from the United States and Europe can fly to Hong Kong and from there to Kuching. This can be unique to us,” he told reporters after witnessing the signing of agreement between Sarawak Tourism Board and Hong Kong Airlines at the latter’s headquarters near Hong Kong International Airport here yesterday.
The agreement for Hong Kong Airlines to operate the Hong Kong-Kuching direct route was signed by STB chief executive officer Datu Ik Pahon Joyik and Hong Kong Airlines Assistant Director of Commercial Michael Burke.
Also present were assistant ministers of tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip and Datuk Gramong Juna, Malaysia Airports Holding Bhd general manager Mohamed Sallauddin Mohamed Shah and Tourism Malaysia, Hong Kong director Norshamsida Abdul Rahman.
According to Abang Johari, Sarawak is expected to host the International Congress and Convention Asia 2016 in November.
He said Hong Kong Airlines would review the frequency of the direct flight if the response is good.
He pointed out that the airline, which currently has 27 aircraft, would see an increase of 11 more aircraft this year.
To sustain the route, Abang Johari said STB would support Hong Kong Airlines in terms of tourism packages as well as market promotion and expansion.
Asserting that eco-tourism will emerge as the key trend of global tourism industry, he said Sarawak has various products to offer to tourists from Hong Kong and other parts of the world.
“Hong Kong Airlines has done their research and they have seen our national parks. They see the potential of Kuching.
“I place high hope on Hong Kong Airlines. Besides, I will also discuss with Hornbill Skyways to provide chartered flights for those coming in from Hong Kong to bring them to Mulu.
“Our six million years old caves are an attraction. And we just need chartered flights.”
Hong Kong Airlines will fly passengers to Kuching and vice versa twice a week.