More airlines to fly into KLIA via tourism joint development fund

Only 32% of the total fund has been tapped by both local and foreign operators

By AFIQ AZIZ / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

THE government is expected to woo more airlines, especially from the Middle East, to fly into Malaysia, via the utilisation of RM20 million fund that is parked under the Joint International Development Tourism Programme (JIDTP).

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi said as of now, only 32% of the total fund has been tapped by both local and foreign operators.

He said Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) are also expected to get two to three foreign airlines to land in Malaysia by the end of this year via the JIDTP scheme.

“Typically, we have up to 80% of take-up rate from the fund throughout the calendar year. This is the proposal that we bring to invite these airlines to join the (marketing) programme.

“So this year, we’ve targeted to utilise 100% of the fund and invite more airlines to spur the tourism industry. We have eight airlines on our list (to be invited) and we expect about two to three carriers to land here by the second half of this year,” he told the press after witnessing the inaugural landing of Air Arabia at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, Selangor yesterday.

Air Arabia, which currently ope-rates flights to more than 170 routes across the globe from four hubs located in the Middle East and North Africa, is the first and largest low-cost carrier from the region flying into KLIA.

Mohamaddin said the direct flight from Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Kuala Lumpur (KL), which started on July 1, was a result of Tourism Ministry’s official visit to Dubai during the Arabian Travel Mart held last April.

Air Arabia’s services to KLIA is also made possible via the JIDTP scheme.

The scheme was formed by MAHB and Tourism Malaysia and launched early this year.

Each party contributed RM10 million to the scheme as part of an effort to promote the in-marketing activities among the tourism industry players, including airline companies.

The fund is expected to deliver a return on investment (ROI) of at least 5% higher than last year’s RM1.1 billion ROI achieved via a pilot project version of JIDTP.

In 2018, both parties allocated a total of RM15 million under the pilot project. The initiative recorded RM1.1 billion in tourism receipts, significantly higher than the initial target of RM800 million.

Mohamaddin added that Tourism Malaysia is also eyeing to attract more West Asian tourists to its shores to achieve its tourism target for 2019.

He said the tourist arrivals from West Asia have rebounded to Malaysia by 25.3% in 2018 from 251,937 to 315,937 footfalls, led by the growth of Oman (36%), Saudi Arabia (11.6%) and UAE (9.7%).

Last year, Malaysia recorded RM3.1 billion in tourist receipts from West Asia, a growth of 32.9% compared to the previous year, which is also among the biggest spender to the country’s revenue.

“As of March 2019, tourist arrivals from West Asia countries to Malaysia registered a total of 65,202.

“Our target is to have 337,100 tourists from West Asia region, and I believe the establishment of Air Arabia’s Sharjah-KL route will certainly help, with increasing tourist arrivals from this region,” he said.

MAHB group CEO Raja Azmi Raja Nazuddin said more tourism players should leverage the JIDTP fund.

“There is a lot more take-up rate and it should be used up, so more airlines could fly into this country,” he said.

The Air Arabia’s seven-hour direct flight, using the new Airbus 321 Long Range aircraft with 210 passenger seat capacity, landed at 8.30am at KLIA yesterday. The airline now flies from Malaysia four days a week.