KOTA KINABALU: An additional terminal at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) will be handy but will not be sufficient to cater for the long-term needs of Sabah, says an entrepreneur group here.
Small and Medium Enterprise Association of Sabah (SME Sabah) president Datuk Foo Ngee Kee(pic) said the announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim over the terminal was welcome, adding it would help with managing the tourist arrivals in the short term.
“The terminal will be helpful but will not be enough for the long-term benefit of Sabah,” he said, here on Friday (Dec 8).
“While the current KKIA, with the (proposed) additional terminal, is still able to cope with the current increase in tourist arrivals, in the long run, Sabah will need a larger and better international airport.
“(This new airport is proposed) to be located in the Tuaran district to serve the tourism belt or the ‘Gold Coast’ of Sabah,” he added, referring to the potential of the coastline on the state’s west coast.
Foo said competition for tourists amongst Asean countries was intense and a better international airport located in Tuaran, about 40km from the state capital, could be a competitive edge for Sabah’s tourism industry.
During an event in Sabah’s interior Tenom district on Thursday (Dec 7), Anwar said the Federal Government was prepared to consider putting up another terminal at KKIA in view of the booming Sabah tourism industry.
The Prime Minister said tourist arrivals were expected to pick up as Sabah's natural beauty and the friendliness of its people attract visitors.
Foo said Tuaran contains some international or well-known resorts while the district was also in close proximity to Karambunai which has its own hotel and the Kota Belud district which has island resorts.
“And more such international hotels will likely be built along the white sandy beaches that stretch north of Tuaran all the way to Kudat.
“This is because there is sufficient population living in and around Tuaran, Kota Belud and Kudat to work in these international hotels.
“This will help create employment in these areas and reduce the number of residents living in these areas seeking employment or working in KK and help to alleviate the traffic congestion between Tuaran and Kota Kinabalu,” he said.
Foo added the additional rooms from these new hotels will help to reduce the shortage of 3,000 to 4,000 international-class hotel rooms and support the growth of tourism in Sabah.
He said the new 10,000-acre Industrial Park (IP) will soon be built in Kota Belud and that an airport in Tuaran will be well-positioned to serve those having dealings with these enterprises in the IP.
Based on recent media reports, he said, state-owned Qhazanah Sabah Bhd had conducted a feasibility study for the new KKIA to be in Kimanis, some 80km south of here.
But Tuaran Umno chief Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan had previously proposed that Tuaran was a better location for the new airport as development on Sabah’s west coast was heading northwards.
He said former state finance assistant minister Datuk Jasnih Daya was of the same opinion, saying a new airport will boost Tuaran as a tourism hub besides providing downstream economic activities and generating job opportunities for locals.