KUCHING: Minister of Tourism and Heritage Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg is urging the Ministry of Transport (MoT) to step on the accelerator and grant permission to MASwings to become a regional airline.
He said the state tourism industry and economy would get a shot in the arm if MASwings could serve BIMP-EAGA countries and important hubs such as Hong Kong, Bangkok, Bali and Singapore.
“The moment you have the connectivity, I believe Main Bazaar here will be full of tourists. When we have a lot of tourists, our economy will improve. That was why the other day I expressed my frustration with the Ministry of Transport for being slow in granting MASwings the permission to operate in BIMP-EAGA.”
(BIMP-EAGA is the acronym for Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines – East Asia Growth Area).
Speaking at MAS and MASwings Hari Raya gathering here yesterday, Abang Johari argued that if Silkair could be the regional airline for Singapore Airlines, he couldn’t see why MASwings couldn’t be the regional airline for MAS.
“MASwings can come out with a new model to be both full service as well as low cost.”
Abang Johari said the state government wanted to expand the tourism industry and that efforts were being made towards that direction.
“I have written a letter to the chairman of MAS and MASwings telling him about the requirements of Sarawak and Sabah, and a copy of the letter was also forwarded to the Prime Minister.”
He added that he was also in close touch with his counterpart in Sabah to ensure that both states would have a common approach in tackling the problem of connectivity.
“The Prime Minister is actually supporting us. In the last meeting in Brunei, he asked why the MoT is slow in giving approval for the BIMP-EAGA routes. The Prime Minister has taken the matter up and I’m sure the issue will be settled soon.”
In the meantime, Abang Johari urged hotel operators and travel agents to modernise themselves.
“They will also have to rationalise the way they promote Sarawak. We can no longer use the conventional approach because you (hotel operators and travel agents) are the people who will gain in this industry.”
In terms of hotel rooms, he said that besides Merdeka Plaza, three more hotels were in the planning stage. This meant that eventually at least 2,000 rooms would have to be filled here.
“We are also building hotels in other parts of Sarawak,” he added.
Abang Johari also revealed that he was still trying to get amphibious aircrafts to serve Batang Ai, Bakun Dam, Damai Lagoon and Miri.