Malaysian Government Looks to Philippine Carriers to Boost Tourism

The State Government of Sabah in Malaysia is hoping to draw more Filipino tourists to the coastal city of Kota Kinabalu to help solidify its position as the nature resort capital of Sabah as more Philippine carriers mount flights to the region

air asia zest kota kinabalu
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
At the inaugural flight ceremony celebrating AirAsia Zest's new direct service between Cebu and Kota Kinabalu, government officials applauded the new service stating that it would create more opportunities for tourism specifically in the East Asean Growth Area composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. 
"It would be almost impossible for tourism in Sabah to flourish without direct connectivity to regional destinations," a government representative said. "It is just a matter of packaging it."
AirAsia executives were equally optimistic about the positive impact that the new route would create. According to AirAsia Philippines CEO Maan Hontiveros, with the new Cebu-Kota Kinabalu flight, the airline plans to address concerns regarding poor connectivity and high fares that has plagued travellers based in Malaysia and other parts of the region. 
"We are very bullish about this new route," said Hontiveros. "We hope to build a truly great-value airline that will serve the needs of Filipino travelers and overseas workers." AirAsia Berhad CEO Aireen Omar echoed those sentiments adding that the route would help to enhance bilateral ties between Malaysia and the Philippines while establishing a closer relationship between each community. 
Hontiveros added that the direct flight between Kota Kinabalu and Cebu was prompted by the large volume of traffic coming from the southern part of the Philippines. She added that AirAsia Zest would be launching more flights to key destinations in Asia coming up in 2014. 
Tourism is one of the primary economic drivers in the Malaysian state of Sabah with Kota Kinabalu receiving more than two million visitors each year. The top three markets are presently composed of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean tourists. 
Kota Kinabalu is known as an adventure tourism destination with a range of popular outdoor activities including treks to its most famous landmark, Mount Kinabalu. There are also a number of cultural and architectural attractions. 
The new AirAsia Zest service is expected to help promote further travel to the state which will result in more business opportunities. AirAsia Zest will operate the new Cebu-Kota Kinabalu flights three times weekly utilizing its Airbus A320 aircraft. 


  1. Kota Kinabalu is a great destination and is more favorable than provincial destinations in the Philippines because of it's well-developed infrastructure, beautiful beaches, fine resorts, and reasonable costs.

  2. The new direct service between Cebu and Kota Kinabalu by AirAsia Zest is a significant step forward for tourism in the East Asean Growth Area. With government support and AirAsia's commitment, it promises to enhance connectivity and affordability, benefiting both Filipino travelers and overseas workers. This initiative not only strengthens bilateral ties between Malaysia and the Philippines but also fosters closer community relationships, paving the way for more prosperous tourism opportunities in Sabah. With its strategic location and promising market, this route marks the beginning of a successful journey towards greater regional integration and economic growth.
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