Sarawak planned to turn its capital, Kuching, into an alternative traveling 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 initiative would be a big move and an ambitious idea for the State and would take constant bidding to do so.
"We hope to develop a hub, especially on the island of Borneo and the Indonesian islands, to address the regional needs of the Umrah pilgrimage. I find it a privilege to represent the ' ummah ' and to live up to their religious obligations and to those who want to travel for business or pleasure, "he said.
He made the remarks when the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and ATS Global Travel (ATT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Sdn Bhd Charters.
Under this MOU, ATS Global will supply Umrah flights to any of its air companies or air operators using Kuching as an alternate gateway from Kuching to Jeddah, and Kuching to Madinah.
Abdul Karim said that the MOU marked a further milestone in the Sarawak tourism history as it paves the way for Kuching to become an alternative hub for Umrah pilgrims in the area.
"There will also be feeding flights from large Indonesian towns in Kalimantan and Java Island," he said.
In the same event, STB also signed an MOU for the launch of a direct flight with Hainan Airlines of China to the capital of Hainan, Kuching.
Abdul Karim claimed that now in its final phase of the proposal for landing slots approval from civil aviation authorities in Malaysia and China as the international five-star Skytrax brand airline, Hainan Airlines was seeking to launch the Haikou-Kuching-Haikou flight by March 2020.
"The proposal comprises two to three flights a week on the route with 164 economical seats including eight business class seats using B737-800 aircraft," he said.
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