KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 — The current haze situation in the country has not deterred tourists from traveling to Malaysia, Tourism, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said today.
He said since the haze is a phenomenon that other Asean countries are also experiencing, it has not affected the arrival of tourists into the country.
“The haze is something felt by all other Asean countries. This is an unavoidable phenomenon. In fact, Singapore too cannot avoid it.
“But not all parts of Malaysia are affected by the haze. I was just back from Langkawi and Penang, these areas are not affected by the haze.
“So if they don’t want to be in the capital city (Kuala Lumpur), they can still travel to other parts of the country,” Muhammad Bakthiar told reporters during Keretapi Sarong 2019, a Malaysia Day celebration event.
He was responding to news reports that poor visibility due to the haze caused the cancellation of flights to Singapore and Johor Baru last Friday, leaving 549 passengers stranded at Sultan Azlan Shah Airport in Ipoh.
Flight visibility was reported to have gone down to 2,500m later that day, forcing the disruption in operations.
Another 555 passengers who were supposed to arrive on the same day at the same airport on four flights were diverted to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (SAAS) in Subang.
“But as you can see today, I thought the turnout would not be great due to the haze, but it looks like it did not stop the public form coming out here to participate in today’s Malaysia Day celebrations,” Muhammad Bakhtiar added.
Meanwhile, commenting on the departure tax, Muhammad Bakhtiar said there have been no negative reports on the tax.
“So far I have not received any negative reports on the departure tax,” he said.
Starting September 1, anyone leaving Malaysia for Asean countries is charged RM8 for flights in economy class and RM50 for other classes.
For flights to countries outside Asean, those travelling in economy class will be charged RM20, while those in other classes will have to fork out RM150.
Since its implementation, there have been calls for the government to halt the tax enforcement.
Sabah Opposition leader Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan reportedly said the airport tax could affect tourism in Sabah.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also said in August that the federal government will study the rates of the passenger service charge (PSC), or airport tax, following AirAsia’s move to collect the additional RM23 levied by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) under protest.
The prime minister said it would be unfair for an equal charge to be imposed for both normal and low-cost carriers as the two offer different fares.