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Wednesday March 11, 2009

Malacca airport to draw more regional tourists

KUALA LUMPUR: The completion of the Malacca airport runway extension project in the next six months will help attract more Indonesians into the state’s healthcare tourism sector, said Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam.

“Our main target is healthcare tourists; that is why we have the federal government approval on the extension.

“The health tourism business is very encouraging and it will bring a lot of income to Malacca and our country,” he told reporters after a signing ceremony between Casa del Rio (M) Sdn Bhd and Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd for a RM50mil term loan facility to build a boutique hotel and serviced apartments in Malacca.

Mohd Ali said the healthcare treatment cost in Malacca was half that of Jakarta and by just capturing 1% of Sumatra’s population of seven million people, a huge benefit would be gained. Last year, Malacca attracted about 70,000 tourists from Sumatra.

Casa Del Rio group MD Tan Sri Syed Yusof Tun Syed Nasir (left) presenting a gift to Mohd Ali after the signing ceremony on Tuesday.

Once the runway extension project is completed, AirAsia Bhd will fly to three places in Sumatra - Pekan Baru, Bukit Tinggi and Medan - and domestically to Penang and Pulau Langkawi, the chief minister said, adding that the budget airline would later add Jakarta, Balikpapan, Kuching, Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu to its list.

Ali Rustam said the expanded airport would be named Malacca International Airport, with FlyFirefly Sdn Bhd expected to operate from there at a later stage.

Currently, only Lion Air from Indonesia operates at the airport.

Meanwhile, the RM102mil boutique hotel project by Casa del Rio is scheduled for completion by the end of next year.

Mohd Ali said with the hotel and four others under construction, the number of hotel rooms in Malacca would increase by about 1,500 rooms in three years, adding to the 10,000 rooms now.

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