No direct flights from Europe into Sarawak a damper, says Deputy Tourism Minister Dawos
KUCHING: It seems everyone involved in Sarawak tourism cannot but talk about the low number of direct international flights to Sarawak these days.
Federal Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos, who yesterday spoke about Sarawak’s four million foreign arrivals last year, highlighted that Bruneians made up the largest chunk.
He said the Bruneian arrivals were mostly “repeat visitors”, making clear that the statistics were not based on the number of unique visitors.
“Last year we registered four million (foreign arrivals), but if you look at the foreigners, they are (mostly) Bruneians. They come for shopping and food, then they go back.”
Although Brunei only has a population of slightly over 400,000, the state registered 1.73 million arrivals from Brunei. The monthly average of foreign visitations from Brunei is roughly 140,000.
Last year, Sarawak registered 1.4 million non-Sarawakian Malaysian arrivals and 2.6 million foreign arrivals.
The second largest block of foreign arrivals was the Indonesians, charting about 417,000 arrivals, followed by visitors from the Philippines at about 113,000.
Dawos also mentioned a recent Tourism Ministry trip to Europe.
“I spoke to representatives from seven European countries. They all expressed interests in visiting Sarawak. Unfortunately, we don’t have direct flights from Europe to Sarawak. That is the problem. So what can we do? How to ask more (European tourists) to come?”
Most foreigners who come to Sarawak would transit in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, he said, adding transit flights cost more.
Dawos added that the number of tourists from Europe to Sarawak would only increase after the European financial crisis was over.
Kuching and Miri are the only two cities in Sarawak that have direct international flights. Kuching has flights to Pontianak, Balikpapan, Brunei and Singapore, while Miri has just Singapore.
Last year, Sarawak recorded about 33,000 visitors from the United Kingdom, 8,700 from Germany, 5,700 from France and 25,000 from the rest of Europe.