BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – After a seven-year hiatus, Royal Brunei Airlines’ (RB) re-launched direct flights from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuching on Friday evening, aiming to drive tourism activity in both cities.

Last October, the national carrier announced it would fly twice weekly to the capital of the east Malaysian state of Sarawak, and eventually increase the frequency to four times a week by February 2019.

This was followed by a signing of a memorandum of agreement with Sarawak Tourism Board in November.

RB’s acting CEO, Captain Saiful Bahrain Awang Bahar, said the route will be a vital link in the airline’s network, making Kuching more accessible to RB’s focus markets in London, Melbourne, Shanghai and soon Tokyo.

The re-launch is also part of wider plans to drive  more tourism to Borneo, with the opportunity to market RB’s single and dual destinations packages in the cities they operate.

“Our increased footprint in northeast Asia, including our recently launched services to Haikou, Taipei and Tokyo Narita in mid-March next year, also allows for great opportunities for Brunei and Sarawak Tourism to jointly capitalise on these tourism opportunities,” said Captain Saiful.

Sarawak Minister for Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports, Datuk Hj Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah (2L); Chairman of RB’s Board of Directors, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin (C); and RB’s acting CEO, Captain Saiful Bahrain Awang Bahar (2R), at the launch of RB’s route to Kuching on December 28, 2018. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Chairman of RB’s board of directors, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah — who is also the Second Minister of Finance and Economy — added that the resumption of direct flights between the two cities is an economic catalyst for trade and tourism.

He noted that RB has been working closely with Brunei Tourism to create a marketing campaign to boost tourism into the sultanate  by leveraging on the airline’s network of 18 destinations

The minister said RB’s shareholder, Darussalam Assets, will continue to support RB’s expansion programme.

“Darussalam Assets currently has in its portfolio a tourism sector that includes luxury hotels, a golf club, an amusement park and a recreational club which it aims to use as part of the overall package to promote the tourism industry in Brunei.

“These assets offer opportunities for the government and relevant agencies to work together to improve the tourism industry and strategies.”

Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said by improving the performance of these assets, it will lead to better amenities and services for tourists and more jobs for Bruneians, as well as the potential for Brunei’s micro, small and medium enterprises to access direct trade links within RB’s route network.