MALAYSIA AIRLINES’ (MAS) direct flights from Japan and South Korea to Kuching next year has been welcomed by the Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) as a positive move to bring in more tourists from the two countries.
STF president Audry Wan Ullok said travel agents and hoteliers in the state had been hoping for the direct air link for quite some time.
“The Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) has put in a lot of effort to introduce the direct flights and we have been invited to come out with holiday packages for these Japanese and South Korean tourists,” she said.
STB chief executive officer, Datuk Rashid Khan had said that Sarawak wanted to attract 40,000 tourists from Japan and South Korea next year when the direct flights from both countries to the state capital commences in January next year.
MAS will operate flights three times a week from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, twice a week from Kansai Airport in Osaka and four times a week from Incheon Airport in Seoul to Kuching via Kota Kinabalu.
Audry said Sarawak’s main attraction for these tourists was its eco-tourism.
“Our rainforest and rich cultural heritage have been a good selling point for the Japanese and South Koreans who also enjoy golfing sessions at cheap prices whenever they visit the state,” she said.
The only obstacle, she reckoned was the lack of Japanese and Korean speaking tourist guides.
“To solve the problem for the time being, we just have to engage interpreters to break the communication barrier between the local tourist guides and the tourists.
“The good news is that the University College of Sedaya International is offering a two-year Japanese and Korean languages course. This could help to solve problem on the lack of tourist guides conversant with the two languages in the future,” she said.
A check with the Ministry of Tourism and Heritage Sarawak’s website revealed that visitors from Brunei topped the list of arrivals from January to April this year at 364,531, followed by Indonesia at 122,082, Philippines at 26,271, Singapore (12,615) and China (11,907).