Singapore's low-cost carrier Scoot has resumed service to Sabah, making it the first international airline to do so. The Scoot Flight TR492 touched down at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport at about 9 pm on Friday, carrying 150 passengers most of whom were westerners.
While the aircraft was saluted with a water cannon, the passengers were greeted with a warm welcome by a group dressed in traditional cultural attire as they entered the arrival gate. State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister cum Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai was on hand to greet Scoot passengers and hand out goodie bags.
Sabah Tourism Board Cheif Executive Officer Noredah Othman and chief marketing officer Tay Shu Lan were also present to welcome the passengers.
Scoot launched its first direct flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu on December 3, 2019, but its operations were halted when the global Covid-19 pandemic struck the following year, affecting the tourism and airline industries.
Prior to the pandemic, Kota Kinabalu was Scoot’s eighth destination in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Kota Baru, Kuantan, Kuching, Langkawi and Penang.
“We are encouraged to see that international airlines continue to make Sabah their preferred destination and operational hub.
“For us, having flights coming from Singapore is important because Changi Airport receives hundreds of flights from cities all over the world and the Singapore-Kota Kinabalu route offers connectivity to potential international visitors to Sabah,” said Joniston.
The Sabah Tourism Board has planned several promotional initiatives to entice Singaporeans to return to Sabah.
From April 22-28, he said the Board and Sabah Tourism industry players attended the Travel Malaysia Digital Fair.
Through the Fair, Singaporean consumers were presented with a wide range of tourism products and stays, highlighting popular packages such as wildlife, nature, and adventure.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Sabah received 126,000 passengers through Singapore. Singaporeans account for 34,000 of the visitors.
“In the near future, more international airlines are expected, with Royal Brunei Airlines flying over on May 6.
Following our recent fruitful discussion, Korean airlines will also be coming,” said Joniston.
The Sabah Tourism Board delegation, led by Joniston was in South Korea on April 25-26, to meet with top management officials from Jin Air, Air Busan, Jeju Air and Air Seoul.
“Tourism activity is ramping up, so the months ahead should be interesting. Seeing that our airport is becoming more busy is a great sign for us.
“This indicates a positive tourist arrival and we expect the arrival to grow, especially when guidelines to ease international tourist entry are put in place,” said Joniston.