Penghalangan penerbangan antarabangsa terus ke Sarawak oleh Kementerian Pengangkutan menambat industri pelancongan Sarawak
Let MAS fly on its own
Borneo Post June 9, 2013, Sunday
YUMMY: Nazri (second right) sampling ‘keropok lekor’ during his visit to Medan Niaga Satok while Abang Johari (right) looks on. — Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi
Special protection for national airline needs to go as Sarawak, Sabah need direct international flights
KUCHING: The special protection given to Malaysia Airlines (MAS) ought to be lifted to pave the way for Sarawak and Sabah to have more direct international fl ights to spur their tourism industry.
Minister of Tourism and Culture Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz said his ministry would talk to the Ministry of Transport as soon as possible to address this perennial issue.
“Now is no longer the time to protect our national carrier. We should focus on the tourism industry which is one of the biggest money earners from the infl ow of tourists,” he told reporters at the Federal Agriculture and Marketing Authority (Fama) building at Medan Niaga Satok yesterday.
Nazri said he was aware that state leaders had pleaded for direct international fl ights for years but all fell on deaf ears due to the special protection given to MAS.
He opined that MAS had been around the past 50 years and thus it was high time the government shifted its priorities and push for more direct international fl ights to states such as Sarawak and Sabah which have strong tourism potentials.
“The modern world is fast becoming a global village, and this will increase competition in all sectors. This, thus, makes it senseless to protect a single national airline carrier.
“We have to be open and competitive. If our airline is unable to compete, that is too bad.”
Nazri said he believed that if the Pan Borneo Highway materialised it would open up even more opportunities for Sarawak to tap its tourism industry.
On tourist arrivals for this year, he said his ministry expected 26.7 million tourists to visit Malaysia, with tourism receipts totalling RM63 billion.
Sarawak is expected to draw in 4.2 million tourists this year.
Nazri said both figures were expected to increase next year as it would be Visit Malaysia Year.
“Next year, we are projecting 28 million tourists in Malaysia, 4.5 million of them visiting Sarawak to produce a tourism receipt of RM67 billion.”
Meanwhile, Nazri, who cruised along Sarawak River to Medan Niaga Satok from the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK), praised the state government for beautifying and developing its river banks.
“The idea of building convention centres and hotels next to the Sarawak River is absolutely brilliant,” he said, adding that rivers are a sustainable tourism product.
To support the state government’s effort in promoting river taxis, Nazri said his ministry would seek funds to build a bridge linking BCCK to the adjacent boat jetty which is located some 200 meters away.
“I was told that the estimated price to build this covered walkway is RM5.6 million. The project is relevant as we do not want delegates or visitors to walk in the harsh sun or rain to get to the jetty.”
Accompanying Nazri was Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, who said that having direct international fl ights would augur well for the state in particular and the nation in general.
“We have the infrastructure … better than the ones in Bali. If they (Bali) can do it, so can we,” enthused Abang Johari.