Thursday, August 13

Amphibious plane a la ‘Fantasy Island’ in the offing

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KUCHING: Getting to tough-to-reach rural areas such as Batang Ai and Bakun would be a breeze beginning sometime next year when the amphibious aircraft service comes into service.

Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip said destinations such as Batang Ai was ready to receive an influx of visitors as there was already a resort in place.

“When it comes to Bakun, there is no hotel there yet. We are looking at options. At this moment, we do not have anybody or group coming up with a concrete proposal,” he said at a press conference yesterday to announce the staging of ‘Sungai Bedil Food Festival 2011’ this Sunday.

He added that the flight schedules of the amphibious plane, which will connect Kuching to Batang Ai, and Bintulu to Bakun, would be finalised after taking into consideration the availability of infrastructure and related facilities at the various destinations.

“The amphibious plane service will still need to feed off on tourist traffic coming into Kuching or Bintulu. We can’t say which destination will be served first. It all depends on the demand,” he said.

Talib revealed that the state government had broached the idea about Bakun to several operators, but the distance was causing some hesitancy.

“Obviously, amphibious planes are a practical option for Bakun for the time being,” he said, adding that it would be operated either by an established airline or private operators.

Last month, Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg said that his ministry was coming up with a new strategy to push for tourism products in areas with hydroelectric dam development.

This will involve the ministry purchasing a Twin Otter equipped with floats to solve the problem of landing in Bakun.