KUCHING: Sarawak planned to turn its capital, Kuching, into an alternative travelling hub for Muslims in Borneo to perform their umrah (minor haj) pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, State Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said today.
He said the plan would be a big move and an ambitious dream for the state and would certainly require persistent leap-frogging attempts in order to achieve it.
“It is our hope to create a hub (for umrah pilgrimage) to serve the regional needs, especially on the island of Borneo and the nearby Indonesian islands. I count it as a blessing to be able to serve the ‘ummah’, to fulfill their religious obligations and also to the people who desire to travel for leisure and business,” he said.
He made the remarks when speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and ATS Global Travel and Charters Sdn Bhd here.
Under this MOU, he said, ATS Global would provide Umrah flights using Kuching as an alternative gateway serving the route from Kuching to Jeddah and Kuching to Madinah using any of their airlines or air operator of choice.
Abdul Karim said the MOU marked another milestone in the history of tourism development in Sarawak as it would pave the way to turn Kuching into an alternative travelling hub for umrah pilgrims in the region.
“The company also will provide feeder flights from major Indonesian cities in Kalimantan as well as from the island of Java,” he said.
Meanwhile at the same event, STB also sealed a MOU with Hainan Airlines of China for the commencement of a direct flight between Kuching and Haikou, the capital city of Hainan.
Abdul Karim said Hainan Airlines, recognised as an international Skytrax five-star brand airline, is now in its final stage of proposal to obtain landing slots approval from the civil aviation authorities in Malaysia and China, and they aimed to start the Haikou-Kuching-Haikou flight by March 2020.
“The proposal involves two to three flights per week on the route using B737-800 aircraft with 164 economy seats including eight business class seats,” he added.