The Malaysian Association of Hotel (MAH) Sarawak Chapter wants the country’s airlines to make public its flight rationalisation plan because industry players and the public in general are anxious about the changes.

Keith Pointer - Chairman MAH Sarawak

Its chairman Keith Pointer said there was now much uncertainty in Sarawak about the air services, which could result in economic losses for the people.

“Corporate people are worried. Travel agents say they are incurring extra costs due to flight cancellation.

“The manufacturers in Samalaju are worried that they could not get people in or out of Bintulu. So the soonest we know what the airlines’ plans are, the better we can cope and plan how to overcome the problems,” he said.

Pointer felt that the various industries, which had been very vocal about the flight rationalisation plan, had not been over-reacting but had been making fair requests as stakeholders.

“They cannot keep silent on the issue as that could further exacerbate the problem,” he insisted.

Furthermore, he said air connectivity was of utmost importance to the hospitality industry in Sarawak as it was the safest, easiest and quickest way for people to move around this vast state.

Asked if the air connectivity had caused losses for the hospitality industry, hotels in particular, Pointer said: “As it is now, I can’t give facts and figures. MAH is still working on the details, getting feedback from the industry players.”

Nonetheless, Pointer believed that the impact on the hotel industry would be enormous if air travel to Sarawak was disrupted.

He revealed that it had already affected New World Suites Hotel’s budget and plans for next year. Pointer is the chief executive officer of the hotel.

“We couldn’t reliably anticipate the number of tourist like before and although there are no revenue losses yet, we are already seeing a decline in business travellers,” he said.

Pointer also said MAH Sarawak fully supported Sarawak Tourism Federation’s (STF) call for a Sarawakian to be appointed into the boards of directors of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia.

The call is one of the points in STF’s memorandum to MAS and the government in reaction to the flight rationalisation plan.

STF believed that the lack of a Sarawakian in the airlines’ boards was one of the reasons why routes to Sarawak were the first to be cancelled nationally in the flight rationalisation exercise.