LANGKAWI: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has urged Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) to lower the landing fees at Langkawi International Airport, saying it would attract more direct flights to the resort island.
"I find MAHB is not looking far ahead. They want to charge high fees for aircraft using the Langkawi airport.
"But with the high fees, not many flights will come to Langkawi, and if there are not many flights, MAHB will not earn much," he told reporters after launching MK Land Holdings Bhd's latest hotel, Ombak Villa, here last night.
He was responding to a question on the paucity of direct flights from overseas to Langkawi compared to Bali and the vacation islands of Thailand despite many foreign tourists acknowledging that Langkawi is a more atrractive island destination.
The only direct flight service from overseas to Langkawi currently is from Singapore.
Dr Mahathir said if the landing charges were slightly lower than those for the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Langkawi could attract more direct flights.
"Not only would Langkawi progress and attract more tourists, but MAHB itself would collect more revenue from more landings here compared to imposing quite steep fees and no aircraft coming.
"Just like in business, if you sell at a high price, you already make a profit even if you sell just one or two items.
"But if you reduce your prices, you will sell more and your profit will be higher.
"This philosophy seems not to be understood by MAHB," he said.
Asked on Langkawi's traders indiscriminately raising their prices during high tourist season, Dr Mahathir said they should not do so on a duty-free island.
"The government does not impose taxes here so as to attract tourists. With more tourists, traders will make more money, but as usual they want to earn a quick buck, they want to charge high prices but with poorer service.
"In the end they are the ones who will lose out," he said. "If they give good service and are friendly with tourists as in Thailand where the people are always smiling, more people would like to come and we would get higher profits," he said.
In another development, Dr Mahathir expressed hope that more efforts are put in to attract more tourists from the Middle East to the country, especially to Langkawi.
"People from the Middle East like to come to tropical areas with rainforests like Malaysia as in their own country all they see is deserts and hot, dry weather, but here it is different.
"They are also bored with going to Europe and America. Before, you could not see a single tourist from Arab countries, now there are many of them, they are interested in Langkawi," he said.
Ombak Villa, a high-end beach resort built at a cost of RM48mil, features contemporary design and traditional Malay architecture.
Also present at the event were Dr Mahathir's wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Kedah Religion, Indian and Siamese Community Affairs, Human Resource and Tourism Committee Chairman Mohd Rawi Abd Hamid, MK Land Holdings Chairman Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar, and Langkawi Development Authority Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Khalid Ramli.-Bernama