New low cost flights stoke M’sian incentive interest in secondary Chinese cities

Tianjin cityscape

Interest in China for incentive trips from Malaysia has intensified following the launch of a four-times-weekly service from Kuala Lumpur to Tianjin by AirAsia X in December 2018.

Malaysia’s longhaul budget carrier has also beefed up its direct, four-times-weekly flights between Kuala Lumpur and Changsha, doubling the number of seats to 377, by operating a wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft on this route.

Tianjin cityscape

Raaj Navaratnaa, general manager, New Asia Holiday Tours & Travel, shared that the port city of Tianjin in north-eastern China had many Muslim-friendly restaurants, making it appealing also to multiracial Malaysian groups.

He added: “It is also rich in heritage and culture. Malaysians looking for authentic experiences will love the Tianjin Old City dating back to the Ming Dynasty.

“Chinese secondary cities, such as Tianjin, Changsha and Guiyang – which AirAsia X has been awarded rights to fly to but has yet to announce the commencement of services – provide delegates an opportunity to stretch their ringgit.”

Uzaidi Udanis, managing director, Eyes Holidays, said: “China is a popular destination for company-wide trips and incentives among SMEs because the cost for an all-inclusive, 4D/3N package including airfare is between RM1,500 (US$369) to RM2,000, which is about the same price organisers have to pay for a trip to Indonesia, Thailand or Vietnam.”

Uzaidi noted that with the same budget, incentive groups can now travel outside of South-east Asia, enabling delegates to “feel appreciated” by rewarding them with a medium-haul trip”.

This is because incentive budgets per person have remained stagnant over the years, despite ground costs having increased, while the ringgit has weakened against major foreign currencies.

That is why Tianjin is such a choice destination, as five-star international hotel brands in the city are pegged at 20 per cent less than in Beijing. It is also easier to clear immigration at Tianjin airport, which is not as crowded as Beijing airport.

Meanwhile, the increased capacity on the Kuala Lumpur-Changsha route would make it easier to get seats for groups of up to 100 people, Uzaidi shared, noting that SMEs in Malaysia usually include spouses and children on company trips.

“Changsha is already popular with Malaysian leisure tourists because of its historic sites, temples, parks and natural beauty, good shopping and food. With the bigger capacity, we aim to target the incentive segment,” Uzaidi said.

Bobby Eng, general manager, Sunflower Holidays, commented: “The added capacity makes it easier to promote the destination to business event organisers. In the past, we didn’t promote this destination for corporate incentive travel due to limited seats.”

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