Sunday, May 9

Malaysian carriers urged to provide direct flights to Moscow

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KOTA KINABALU: National carrier Malaysia Airlines or low-cost carrier AirAsia have been urged to consider the possibility of direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Moscow, Russia.

According to United Pasokmomogun KadazanDusun Murut Organisation (Upko) vice president Senator Datuk Maijol Mahap, direct air accessibility would further strengthen ties between both countries.

Maijol, after attending the Baikal International Economic Forum and Russia-ASEAN Round Table Discussion in Irkutsk, Russia recently, said at present there were no direct flights from Moscow to Kuala Lumpur and vice-versa.

The seven-member Malaysian delegation to the forum and discussion was led by the president of the Malaysian Senate, Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang. The Ambassador of Malaysia to Russia, Datuk Zainol Abidin Omar, was also present.

“People in Russia coming to Malaysia have to use other countries’ airlines such as Singapore Airlines (SIA), Cathay Pacific Airways, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Thai Airways which have frequent flights to all major airports in Malaysia. I was told that many Russians would like to come to Sabah for holidays and all these while, they had to fly to Kota Kinabalu via Seoul.

“I think MAS or AirAsia should consider having direct flights from Malaysia to Moscow. However, in order to have this we have to find the passengers. But I believe that with the aggressiveness of the tourism bodies and players in our country, we can find the passengers,” he said.

According to Maijol, the Russian market is touted as the third fastest growing travel market in the world after China and India. This was clearly visible by the steady increase of Russian outbound travels to Malaysia in 2010.

He disclosed that Russian tourist arrivals to Malaysia posted a healthy 9.84 per cent increase from 29,202 in 2009 to 32,075 tourists in 2010.

“The growth is largely due to the increasing awareness of the Russian public about Malaysia through aggressive promotions by Tourism Malaysia. The advertisements in travel magazines, brochures, plasma displays, underground metro stations as well as joint promotions with other tourism boards have also boosted Malaysia with Russia. The intense promotions conducted by Tourism Malaysia have increased interest among tour operators to sell Malaysia holiday packages,” Maijol said.

He added that Tourism Malaysia had also organised the Mega Familiarisation Programme (Mega FAM) to invite key players of the Russian tourism industry to experience Malaysia first-hand as an all-year-round international tourism destination and the program had proven to be a very effective and successful campaign.

According to him, Malaysia and Russia could still improve their bilateral trades and investments based on the potentials that both countries have to offer to each other, especially in areas of tourism, education and science and technology.

He was of the opinion that in the field of higher education, it continues to be an important bilateral link in promoting people-to-people relations between Malaysia and Russia.

Russia, he pointed out, is expected to remain a popular destination for Malaysian students to further their medical studies due to the attractive cost structure.

Apart from medicine, interest had been steadily growing for other disciplines, especially in aerospace and marine engineering, Maijol pointed out.

“As many as 2,946 Malaysian students had registered for the 2010/2011 academic year compared to the previous year of 2,918 students. At present, Malaysian students are distributed to eight universities throughout the Russian Federation. These universities are the Russian State Medical University, the Moscow Medical Academy, the Volgograd State Medical University, the Nizhry Novgorod State Medical University, the St Petersburg Mechnikov State Medical Academy, the Moscow Aviation Institute and the State Marine Technical University”.

“On the other hand, only 62 Russians were registered in higher education institutes (HEI) in Malaysia – 37 in public HEI and 25 in private HEI for 2010. This figure is fewer than the 89 students in 2009 – 33 in public HEI and 56 in private HEI”.

“I think we can offer places to the Russian students to study English and Information Technology in our country,” he stressed.

Baikal International Economic Forum is an annual event held in Irkutsk within Siberia with the intention of promoting trade and investment between countries and regions. The main issue covered this year was the development of strategy for Siberia and the far east (of Russia) in the forum of scientific technological and innovative capacity of the regions. For the first time this year, a round table “Russia-ASEAN” was held as the framework of the forum which was attended by delegates from 30 countries and 16 regions of Russia, including Malaysia”.