KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is keen to bring in more Chinese tourists with plans being made to “capture” at least 200,000 from the relatively-new northern China market this year.
Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew said there were plans for long-term charter flights to bring in the visitors from the Chinese region soon.
She said the initiative was a result of collaboration between Cekal Aman Sdn Bhd (Malaysia) and its China flight charter partner, BJ. ST. International Travel Co. Ltd.
BJ. ST. International Travel is the major operator in China involved in chartering flights out of China to Jeju City, South Korea, as well as Nha Trang and Da Nang in Vietnam.
“Against this scenario, we must capitalise on northern China’s outbound tourism by wooing these tourists to make Sabah their preferred holiday destination,” she said during a visit by Cekal Aman officials yesterday.
Liew, who is also state tourism, culture and environment minister, has instructed the Sabah Tourism Board to facilitate the inflow of tourists from northern China.
Aaron Chang, Cekal Aman operations director, said northern China was a relatively new market, with BJ. ST. International Travel planning to connect cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, Zhengzhou, Nanjing and Shenyang to Kota Kinabalu.
“Flight charters from those routes is ready to start in three months’ time upon full approval by the local authorities.
“Our forecast for the second year is between 350,000 and 400,000 tourists,” he said, adding that some 50,000 to 100,000 tourists from the first year’s figure of 200,000 would be diverted to Sabah’s Tawau and Semporna districts.
Chang said there was a need for more 3- to 5-star hotels to cater to the anticipated influx of northern Chinese tourists in the next 10 years.