Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sarawak Tourism Federation wants aviation policy and tourism strategy

KUCHING: The Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) is sending a memorandum to the state government requesting it to formulate a formal aviation policy and strategy in order to protect the state’s economic interests, especially in the tourism sector.

Its president Audry Wan Ullok said they were also requesting the state government to seriously consider setting up a new airline to serve the needs of the state, in view of Sarawak’s poor air connectivity and the possible emergence of a domestic airline cartel that prioritises services focused on Peninsular Malaysia.

“The state government could take a controlling interest in a new airline and seek an established airline operator as a joint venture partner to manage the new Sarawak-based airline.

“In view of our geographical location, air accessibility and connectivity is vital for Sarawak in the areas of trade, travel and tourism. Moreover, it serves to promote national integration as well as having important social function to reunite families, within and outside of Sarawak,” she told a press conference yesterday.

The announcement of a share swap between Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia had resulted in a somewhat secretive route rationalisation exercise.

This exercise took place with limited communication from both MAS and AirAsia, and it had resulted in the cancellation of flights by MAS, and is expected to result in the termination of services of Firely at the end of this month, she pointed out.

She expressed concern about the consequences of the share swap, apart from the major inconvenience to travellers, adding they also forwarded a memorandum to both MAS and the federal government to express their concerns.

She said STF also felt that the abrupt cancellation of flights and the lack of communication from MAS and its subsidiaries were creating uncertainty in the marketplace.

“The current silence from MAS is damaging MAS’s reputation and negatively impacting Sarawak’s tourism industry. MAS must start to communicate and engage with the tourism industry and its customers and issue regular statements and updates.

“So far we have not seen any official statements from MAS and AirAsia yet,” she said, adding without improved air access, all the money spent on marketing by Sarawak Tourism Board, Sarawak Convention Bureau and the private sector will come to nothing.

Audry said in the past, competition between MAS and its subsidiaries on the one hand and AirAsia had been good for consumers in east Malaysia, and resulted in cheaper airfares and increased flights to destinations in Sarawak.

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