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By Nancy Nais
KUCHING, Dec 2: Sarawak recorded another milestone for its tourism industry today with a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) direct flight from Penang to Kuching.
Welcoming the inaugural direct flight (MH2721) at the Kuching International Airport (KIA), Tourism, Arts and Culture (MTAC) minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said connectivity has always been a challenge especially for Sarawak, may it be land, water or air, hence getting direct connectivity to Penang was very much welcome.
As Sarawak is nestled on the island of Borneo, separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the South China Sea, the only efficient way to travel is by air.
“It is so good to see that we are also now connected via Malaysia Airlines to another beautiful island, Penang. The connectivity and accessibility generate greater mobility that will drive the economic growth of both destinations. I am very sure that people of both islands can now visit both UNESCO sites more easily.
“Recently, Kuching has just been recognised as UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network in the field of gastronomy and with a direct link to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Georgetown, visitors can now also enjoy the best offerings of both cities blessed with the abundance of culture, adventure, nature food and festivals from East to West,” he said.
As the Covid-19 pandemic has made all countries focus inwards, Abdul Karim asserts that Sarawak is no exception.
The homegrown brand ‘Sia Sitok Sarawak’ where Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) collaborated with Sarawak Tourism Federation has highlighted exciting domestic packages, with overwhelming response that has helped the industry during the challenging time.
“This has made our local visitors learn more about our own backyard. It proves that there is certainly a lot of potential for domestic tourism.
“With travel restrictions easing in Sarawak, the State is looking forward to seeing more new direct routes and increasing the frequency of direct flights from hubs such as Penang, KL, Johore and Kota Kinabalu and greater collaboration with Malaysia Airlines,” Abdul Karim added.
He assured that safety will be the main priority with stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) enforced so that travellers will have peace of mind while travelling to Sarawak.
Fully vaccinated domestic travellers from all states in the country will not need to undergo quarantine upon arrival to Sarawak and no PCR or RTK Covid-19 tests are needed prior to departure.
The only requirement needed is to apply for entry via the EnterSarawak app for non -Sarawakians and submitting the completed e-Health declaration form.
Maswings Chief Operating Officer Captain Nasaruddin A Bakar said the Penang-Kuching flight will operate with a frequency of two flights weekly, on Thursdays and Saturdays on their Boeing 738.
Depending on the demand, he assured MAS will consider increasing the number of flights if needed in the future.
The momentous event was also witnessed by MTAC permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee, MAS head of sales Roslan Ismail and STB chief executive officer Sharzede Salleh Askor.
Upon arrival, the plane was given a warm and wet welcome with the traditional water gun salute to mark the special occasion.
Two fire engines were strategically positioned as they turned their water cannons to create a giant arc above a plane as it taxied to its gate.
Some 140 passengers were later greeted by Sarawakian cultural performances to mark the journey between the two islands. — DayakDaily