KOTA KINABALU: Sandakan can expect an increase in direct flights as discussions are under way to commence chartered flights from here soon. Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said the State Government through the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry was in discussion with several airline companies to commence the chartered flights.Liew, who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, said tourism players were complaining about difficulties in promoting Sandakan tour packages to tourists due to the lack of direct flights from here and vice-versa. It was reported in February that MASwings had stopped operating the Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan route from January 1, this year. The route is also serviced by AirAsia four times a week and twice daily by MAS via Tawau.
Liew said several airline companies had shown interest to commence chartered flights to Sandakan which are expected to commence within this year.She said the latest round of discussion was held on Thursday (March 21) at her Ministry’s office, but she did not reveal the names of the airline companies that were willing to offer chartered flight services to Sandakan.“Sandakan has its own potential and has different tourism attractions that are more on wildlife, orang-utan, wildlife sanctuaries and elephants in Kinabatangan. “This is a different kind of tourism that we will be targeting this year,” she said to reporters during a working visit to the Api-Api Night Market at Gaya Street, here, on Saturday night. Accompanying her during the visit were Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman, City Hall Director-General Datuk Amrullah Kamal and Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry Permanent Secretary William Baya and other senior officials.Liew assured that her Ministry will focus on further improving the tourism industry not only here but also in Sandakan and Tawau, as well as addressing issues faced by the tourism players in the three places.
“Apart from this, we will also aggressively promote homestay tourism in Sabah as it has been doing very well last year,” she added.On the Api-Api Night Market, Liew said it has potential to become another tourist attraction in the city as it provides a variety of local delicacies, foods, drinks and fruits.Liew, who is also Api-Api Assemblywoman, said she was very pleased that the night market every Friday and Saturday from evening until 2am was gaining popularity.“Since the night market was established on Dec 1, last year, the businesses have picked up. It provides a platform for the locals and tourists to hang out and enjoy eating local food and drinks, as well as listening to the local buskers showing their singing talents.“I believe the night market has the potential to attract tourists, not only domestic but also international, for a joyful experience.“In fact, two weeks ago, I was in Berlin, Germany to promote Sabah to the European market. I expect an increase in the number of European tourists visiting Sabah starting April and we have included the Api-Api Night Market in their tour itinerary,” she said.
Liew said the number of tourists patronising the Api-Api Night Market has been consistent so far except for February when many tourists visited the night market because of the surge in Chinese tourists due to the “Golden Week” in China.On whether the night market would be made a permanent one, she said there is no definite time as to when the night market would be maintained or stopped.
Source : Daily Express