Published on: Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Kota Kinabalu: The State Government is not taking Malaysia Airlines (MAS) route rationalisation exercise, that saw Sabah losing several direct international flights, sitting down.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said so far, a couple of high-level discussions had been held and one of them was also attended by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.
However, MAS cannot go back on its decision to carry out the rationalisation exercise.
Towards this end, Masidi said Sabah, especially the tourism industry, would continue to move forward "with or without MAS".
Speaking to reporters after representing the Chief Minister at the grand opening of the Suria Sabah here, Monday, he said Sabah cannot wait for MAS to make money first before Sabah starts its planning.
"If they are not around, obviously we cannot be waiting for them to come.
We want the tourist arrivals in Sabah to continue to increase with or without MAS," he said, adding that all tourism players in the State must take up the challenges.
"There is a saying that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going," he said, adding that several discussions were also being made with other airlines to fly direct to Sabah.
"I am not claiming to be an expert in the airlines industry but I think we have to look at it from the long-term perspective but cost cutting is not only the answer. They need to make money to stay in the business.
"We lose a lot of goodwill by abandoning routes and although MAS may come back at another time, passengers may have already chosen other airlines," he said.
Masidi said, "is not that we hate MAS and we truly feel we have to support them but at the same time they must also support us."
The major income earner for MAS is the East Malaysia sector, he said.
In this respect, he said the opening of a premier mall like Suria Sabah was apt with the promotion of Sabah as a tourist shopping haven.
He said about 35 million people from China will go out from their country every year and about 70 per cent of them will go to Hong Kong or Taiwan because they like to shop.
In Malaysia, about 1.1 million Chinese tourist arrivals had been recorded but most came to shop in Kuala Lumpur, while up to October last year about 114,000 came to Sabah.
Masidi also urged the shopping malls not only to improve their quality of products but also the cleanliness of their toilets.
He said toilet cleanliness had been a major issue among the tourists in Sabah.
Other aspects are the friendliness of the shop assistants and security features.
Meanwhile, Suria Sabah Chairman, Humphrey Tan, said about 80 per cent of Suria Sabah had been occupied.
"I have previously stated that my vision for Suria Sabah is that it should be Sabah's first stop shopping mall. That is the place where shoppers go first to look for their needs before searching elsewhere.
"Although there is certainly more work to be done before my vision can be fully accomplished, I do believe that Suria Sabah is firmly on track," he said.