KOTA KINABALU: A realistic study involving all stakeholders of Sabah’s tourism industry must be made before finalizing on a new mega Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) project, stressed Sabah Hotels Association (SHA) chairman Christopher Chan.
Chan said a greater KKIA should be made at a timely matter according to the economic climate whilst ensuring proper funding is available before sparking speculations that would impact the city planning and property industry.
He said the country should learn from history and the need for a bigger KKIA should not only be measured from a civil aviation angle but also from a local tourism perspective with a firm footing on facts and all possible implications.
“Is it the right time for us to talk about a new one? Because the total tourist arrival for 2016 is only about 3.3 million,” he said.
“The airport should have been relocated to Tuaran in the past but then that didn’t happen and an upgrade was made to the present one.
“These things are going to create either a good or bad thing, the land cost all of a sudden go sky high in certain areas. Tuaran for example, all of a sudden the land costs went up very high as the airport was expected to be there but it didn’t happen,” reminded Chan, adding that the mega project would affect development plans for building due to zoning restrictions.
Going a bit further, Chan also wondered whether the new airport would impact the Pan Borneo Highway, a project that should take precedence to a new KKIA.
“Let’s be realistic, don’t put in speculation when it might be another 50 years before we have a new airport,” he said.
“Are you sure the people in Sabah need it and are they looking forward to it? Is it justified? Is there money? Do we really need it? Does Kota Kinabalu need a new airport? What is their expectation? What is the growth rate? Is there a real study on this and are you sure you know what you are talking? It must be based on a proper study,” Chan asserted.
He said all options should be considered before making a final conclusion and a decision should be made based on priority.
The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) has suggested the building of a new, bigger airport as KKIA will reach its full runway capacity of 13 million passengers annually in the next five years.
Its executive chairman, General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Abdullah bin Ahmad, said a study was in process now to look into a new site for a bigger airport and it would have more than two runways to cater for the big influx of foreign tourists into Sabah.
Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI) president Datuk Michael Lui said the State Government ought to consider Mavcom’s suggestion as the KKIA may not be able to cope with the influx of tourists to the state capital in the next two to three years.
He said KKIA was currently the second busiest airport in Malaysia.
“I believe that more international flights will come to Sabah in the future as our State is now a popular destination for tourists from many countries, especially China.”
During his visit to Hong Kong last month, Lui said his friends told him that many of their relatives from China wanted to spend their vacation in Sabah.
“At present, both the low-cost and premium carriers are operating at KKIA.
“I believe KKIA will be hectic in the next two to three years.
“Hence, I think it is timely to seek for a location to build a new airport before the existing terminal gets too crowded,” Lui said.
He also hoped that the new airport, if the State Government is building one, would not be located too far from Kota Kinabalu for the convenience of passengers.