OPERATORS and tourism stakeholders in East Malaysia have been forced to rethink their marketing strategies due to Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) impending withdrawal of direct flights between Kota Kinabalu and South Korea, Japan, and Australia (TTG Asia e-Daily, January 9, 2012).
Sabah Tourism Board (STB) deputy general manager, Gordon Yapp, said it was now “a matter of survival”.
“We are an isolated destination; 90 per cent of our arrivals are by air, so the cuts will impact our competitiveness, especially with regards to Japan and Australia,” he said. “South Korea is less affected because of existing flights by Asiana and Korean Air.”
Yapp said STB would attempt to convince Japanese to fly with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, or Asiana and Korean Air via South Korea, while traffic from Perth would have to go through Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.
“We will work with any willing airline, since we cannot rely on MAS,” he said, adding that incentives will be offered to travel consultants who send customers over. STB will also help with marketing efforts.
Meanwhile, operators like YTL Hotels, which is opening the Gaya Island Resort, Borneo in July, have been forced to overhaul their marketing. “We intended to target South Korea, Japan, Australia and Europe. Now, it looks like we have to concentrate our efforts on Europe,” said Ai Lin, assistant director of sales.
Emong Tinsang senior manager-sales & operations of Kuching’s Borneo Adventure, which has a large Australian clientele, expects at least a 20 per cent drop in business, and now has to target the high-end European market.
Baton Bijamin, general manager of Kota Kinabalu-based Borneo Eco Tours, whose top three markets are Australia, Europe and the US, said he would turn to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia via Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and expats based in China and Hong Kong.
“We will also create more products which are able to sell regardless of whether there are direct flights, such as adventure, nature and wildlife tours, bird-watching, local culinary journeys and tribal homestays,” he said.
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