Don’t mention foreign tourists if air services can’t meet domestic demand, says senator

Senator Rita Sarimah Patrick Insol

By DayakDaily Team

KUCHING, March 20: Senator Rita Sarimah Patrick Insol wants an explanation from aviation authorities regarding the disruption in air connectivity experienced in Sarawak between Feb 25 and March 2 where all flights operated by Malaysian Airlines, AirAsia and Malindo to Kuala Lumpur from major cities in the State had no available seats.

Noting the high demand for air travel due to school holidays coupled with Chinese New Year festivities, she emphasised that it is implausible the management of these airlines not to have forecast passenger demand for the peak period and arrange additional flights to meet the surge in demand.


“The failure of the airlines to accommodate the demand for flights to Kuala Lumpur is an irresponsible act because air transportation is the only mode of transportation between Sarawak and the peninsula.

“While travelers in the peninsula have three other options—driving themselves, taking train, or bus—for us in Sarawak, we have no choice but air transportation,” she highlighted when debating the Royal Address in Dewan Negara today.

Rita urged the Ministry of Transport to shed light on this matter and together with Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

“If our air services cannot accommodate the demands of domestic users, how can we cater to the demands of foreign tourists?” she questioned.

Touching on the development of the tourism industry in Malaysia, she stated there is no need to compete with countries like Thailand in terms of tourist arrivals.

“What is crucial is that the tourism industry grows from year to year, and its contribution to the economy continues to increase with our own unique products and strengths such as eco-tourism, extensive road infrastructure, diverse culinary offerings, rich heritage and history, wide use of English and affordable value of ringgit,” she added.

Rita expressed optimism that the tourism industry has great potential to be a big source of revenue, create spillover and contribute significantly to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), considering the substantial number of tourist arrivals and billions on ringgit in tourism receipts achieved annually.

“In 2019, Malaysia recorded the arrival of 26.1 million foreign tourists, generating an income of RM86.14 billion from foreign tourists. Meanwhile, a total of 239.1 million domestic tourists contributed to an income of RM103.2 billion.

“The tourism sector that year contributed 15.9 per cent to GDP and 23.6 per cent of the workforce was employed in this sector. This corresponds to approximately 3.68 million workers, out of a total labour force participation of 15.6 million people in 2019. The gross value added from tourism industry (GVATI) for that year amounted to RM240 billion,” she said.

While 2020 and 2021 witnessed a downward trend due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Rita emphasised that the reopening of Malaysia’s border in 2022 saw the arrival of 10 million foreign tourists and generated RM33.4 billion in revenue.

With Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) targeting to attract 35.6 million tourists with estimated revenue of RM147.1 billion, she expressed confidence that this target can be translated into GVATI. — DayakDaily