KUCHING, Oct 23 — DAP’s Bandar Kuching Member of Parliament Dr Kelvin Yii today said he spoke to Transport Minister Anthony Loke on MasWings’ move to drastically increase airfares rates for foreigners for certain routes in Sarawak including Miri-Bario, and Kuching-Mulu.
He said the increase will have a big effect on local tourism and the socio-economic status of those in the rural areas who rely heavily on the industry.
He said he was informed that the reason for the rise was the increasing subsidy the federal government must pay to sustain such routes and flights.
“Currently it costs more than RM200 million annually for the subsidy alone,” he said, adding that the subsidy is meant to benefit local Malaysians especially those from rural areas instead of subsidising foreigners.
“However, while I understand the reasoning to prioritise locals for the subsidy, I have requested for the ministry to reconsider this decision especially since it will have cascading effects especially affecting foreign tourist numbers to those areas, thus affecting the livelihood of the locals who rely heavily on touristic activities in their area,” he added.
He was responding to complaints from the Sarawak Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin on the drastic increase in the airfares charged to foreigners by MasWing in Sarawak.
Yii agreed with Lee that the drastic increase in the airfares will also affect the target for the nationwide Visit Malaysia Campaign 2020 as many tourists will think twice to come due to the high cost of flights to the area.
“I have requested the ministry to come up with a more pragmatic rate and not have such a drastic surge in prices that may suffocate the growth of the growing touristic industry in those areas.
“The minister has responded positively and will discuss further with the management of MasWings in view of the possibility to restudy and review the new rates come up with a reasonable way forward. He is also open for further engagement with different stakeholders on the issue,” he said, adding that he will raise the issue when in the current meeting of the Dewan Rakyat.
“We want to see more tourist coming into Sarawak to see the natural beauty and also experience the warmth of hospitality,” he said.
The new prices of air tickets to be charged by MasWings will come into effect on November 1.
Under the new rate for foreigners, a Miri-Bario return ticket costs RM1,037, Miri-Marudi (RM738), Miri-Lawas (RM922) and Miri-Labuan (RM908).
A ticket from Miri to Mulu is RM314 for Malaysians, but for foreigners, it is RM946 while the rate for Kuching-Mulu is RM1,386 for foreigners.
Currently, MasWing mounts two daily Miri-Bario flights, with one-way ticket costing RM118 for the local Malaysians.
Lee had said he had written a letter to his federal counterpart for a meeting to discuss the airfares and other transportation issues.