Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sarawak Tourism Federation lauds move to get new airline to fill gap left by Batavia Air

KUCHING: The Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) has lauded the move to get other Indonesian carriers to fill gap left by the closure of Batavia Air but expressed fear how long it would take since time is of the essence to keep the state’s tourism industry moving.

The federation’s president Audry Wan Ulok said realistically it was not easy to get new airlines to operate in the state and it could take a long time before it materialised.

“We are so dependent on air connectivity and the federation is always excited for more flights to come our way but we hope things could work out quickly and soon.

“Malindo Air was supposed to come in at the beginning of this year but I heard the airline was not quite ready as there were some issues to resolve internally,” she told The Star yesterday.

With Batavia Air’s closure, Audry felt that it was imperative to secure other airlines from Indonesia as the country offered a strong market particularly in the medical and education sectors.

She said Batavia Air, the sole Indonesian budget carrier to operate in the state, was an important link for the development of Sarawak’s medical tourism because it could better accommodate sick people, including those on stretchers.

Furthermore, the bulk of foreign patients patronising private specialists hospitals here were from Indonesia, she added.

“The medical and education sectors are money churners for the state. The two sectors are pumping in more money than those tourists who are here on a leisure travel. This is because, those in the two sectors are staying on for a longer period so the state government should seriously look into securing these markets,” she explained.

She said the recent launch of the MASwings’ Kuching-Balikpapan route was a positive one for Sarawak given Balikpapan had many expatriates.

She said expats could fly into Kuching enroute to other destinations like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Audry acknowledged that the state Tourism Ministry and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) were constantly working hard on securing the air connectivity to the state.