LANGKAWI, 13 September: Langkawi International Airport’s terminal expansion was completed just in time to welcome delegates attending the Pacific Asia Travel Association’ annual travel mark this week.
The annual PTM opened on Malaysia’s popular holiday island, Tuesday, bringing to the island just short of 300 international travel buyers.
Around 1,000 delegates are attending the three-day trade show that showcases travel content from Asia-Pacific to an audience of buyers from around the world.
Langkawi Development Authority’s (Lada) chief executive officer, Datuk Azizan Noordin, commenting on the opening of the new terminal, last weekend, called it “timely for an island… we are carving another milestone in our effort to make Langkawi an international convention destination,” he told Bernama during the opening ceremony.
The airport’s new look will provide a better first impression to tourists who visit the North Malaysia holiday island, he added.
Around 275 international travel buyers from 66 countries are meeting around 300 travel content suppliers from around Asia Pacific. PATA is hosting 20 foreign media organisations.
Operation at the expanded terminal commenced last Saturday and the airport’s operator, Malaysia Airports Holdings, said the new facilities would encourage more airlines to serve the island that desperately needs direct flights from gateway cities across Asia and China. North of Langkawi, Thailand’s Phuket island has considerably more direct flights from travel source markets.
Work on the terminal commenced in October 2017 and has increased handling capacity from 1.5 million passengers per annum to 4 million.
Also the floor area of LGK’s terminal building has increased from 15,000m² to 23,000m², and its facilities have also been upgraded to reduce congestion and improve operational efficiencies.
But Langkawi has to raise its game plan to attract more airlines. Despite hosting big events such as PTM, there are only six airlines currently operating from the airport with a combined weekly frequency of just 238 flights. This compares to around 80 airlines serving Phuket, Langkawi’s main competitor. However, more foreign airlines are considering flying to the island, possibly during the peak months, October to March, mostly by offering charter flights.
There are ad-hoc charters from China such as Chengdu, Hangzhou, X’an and Chongqing. Scheduled direct airline services are operational from Singapore and from China (Guangzhou, Kunming and Guiyang).
Airlines consider new destinations on the incentives airports and destinations are prepared to offer, usually reduced landing fees, complimentary office space, and financial support for online promotions and advertisements.
Langkawi is eligible for incentives under a national airports authority five-year programme that expires in 2020. It offers financial incentives including MYR50,000 grants for marketing support
In the meantime, local tourism officials said the new airport terminal was another value-adding feature, which would raise Langkawi’s image as an international tourism destination.
Apart from the new airport terminal, the expansion of the Kuah Jetty Point was also completed last year and this helped to facilitate travel to the island.
Emphasising the fact that better services should go along with the improvement in infrastructure, officials said the airport and the jetty point were important as they acted as gateways and gave tourists their first impressions about the island.
Langkawi Business Association deputy president, Datuk Alexander Isaac, praised the contractor of the airport expansion project for completing the project within the stipulated time and ahead of the 2018 Pata Travel Mart.
“Of course the airport is now ready toi handle more travellers, but the real challenge will be evident during the peak months, when the authorities need to be fully prepared to handle more visitors,” he said.
There remain some issues at the airport such as weeding out touts who create a bad impression among tourists, he noted.