PETALING JAYA: Transport minister Loke Siew Fook says it is more practical to expand the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport in Ipoh, Perak, than to build a new one nearby to develop the state’s tourism industry.
Without referring to any specific plan, Loke said building a new airport would take more time and resources.
“The construction of a new airport will take a very long time. What needs to be done now is to find ways to upgrade the Ipoh airport for the tourism industry,” said Loke in his speech at the Perak DAP annual convention.
On July 1, Loke said the government would not proceed with plans for a proposed new international airport in Kulim, Kedah.
The DAP secretary-general said the Kulim airport’s construction would only be considered if the Penang airport exceeded its projected maximum capacity of 20 million passengers per year, which is only expected to happen in 2042.
Plans for the airport were initiated by the Kedah government in 2014, with current menteri besar Sanusi Nor recently urging Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to set aside his “personal interests” and speed up approval.
Loke added the current government has set its sights on expanding the Ipoh airport, which he would discuss with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).
“I’ve informed MAHB that the Ipoh airport needs more than an upgrade, it has to be expanded and upscaled,” said Loke.
He also urged the state government to increase the number of hotels and homestays, as the demand for tourist accommodation in Ipoh was rising rapidly.
Loke added that the tourism industry is Perak’s most important sector, especially in areas such as Ipoh and the Kinta Valley.
“I couldn’t find a hotel for myself in Ipoh for this weekend and I was informed that Ipoh was often filled with tourists during weekends.
“This means Ipoh is an attractive destination for local and foreign tourists. Every week, ETS train tickets from KL to Ipoh sell out within hours.
“I think our local and state governments should find more investments for hotels (to accommodate this need),” said Loke.