Direct flights expected to boost Malaysian tourism among Swedes

A 30 to 40 percent increase in tourist arrivals from Sweden to Malaysia is expected next year, following the recent introduction of Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) direct flights between the two countries, said Tourism Malaysia Stockholm director Ahmad Johanif Mohd Ali.
     19,706 Swedes visited Malaysia in the first nine months of this year, compared to 29,250 for the whole of last year, he told reporters who were on MAS’ inaugural flight to Stockholm on November 1, which also saw Swedish Ambassador to Malaysia Bruno Beijer on board the plane.
     “Their main destinations in Malaysia are Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur, Taman Negara and Sabah and Sarawak,” Ahmad Johanif said, adding that Swedish tourists spent an average of about 10 nights in Malaysia.
     His expectation is echoed by excited travel agents in Malaysia and Sweden.
     “We have been waiting for this (direct flight) for a long time,” said Gullivers contract manager Stig Dobos, adding that the easier access to KL would definitely bring a lot more traffic from Scandinavian countries to Malaysia.
     With the KL-Stockholm service, MAS will be the only carrier to fly non-stop between Malaysia and Sweden. The thrice-weekly flights leave KL on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. From Stockholm, the flights continue to New York before making the return trip to KL via Stockholm.
     Dobos said Thailand, which had direct air links with Sweden for a long time, had been the number one destination for Scandinavian tourists in the past 15 to 20 years, but suggested that the tourists might want to see something else and Malaysia was an alternative.
     Swedish travel consultant Bengt Gillborg said the new link would enable Malaysia to compete with Thailand as a tourist destination.
     MyTravel Northern Europe contracts manager (services) Hans Borg said the non-stop service would overcome previous obstacles faced by Swedes in having to fly to Malaysia via other points in Europe. He said MyTravel, which had been bringing tourists from Scandinavia to Langkawi and Sabah, would also market Tioman and Redang in future.
     The new flight will also help promote Swedish destinations among holiday makers from Malaysia.
     Popular Express Travel managing director Dewi Chen said the direct link would give Malaysians easier access to Scandinavian cruises and trips to Lappland in northern Sweden, the “home of Santa Claus.”

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