Bario tourism industry, Orang Ulu communities celebrate reversal of MASwings airfare hike

MASwings has now decided to reverse the decision on increasing airfares for foreigners, which was expected to affect tourism in Bario and other rural areas.

MIRI: Tourism industry players and Orang Ulu communities in northern Sarawak heaved a sigh of relief after rural air service ( RAS) provider MASwings rescinded its unpopular proposed airfares hike.

Rurum Kelabit Association president Dr Philip Raja welcomed the news after homestay operators, tourists guides and other service providers had earlier anguished over the announced new rates that were supposed to come into effect next month, calling it “suffocating” and “unwise”.

“We welcome the news and our folks in Bario and other villages in the highlands can now sleep better,” he told The Borneo Post , which first highlighted the issue on Oct 23.

He was referring to the the rural folks including the Berawan, Kelabit, Lun Bawang, Saban and Penan and other Orang Ulu tribal communities in these locations affected as tourism is expected to pick-up once the airfares are restored to their original price.

“In fact, a group of visitors from Australia, New Zealand and the United States were having second thoughts on coming to Bario for a World War II memorial event. Now this reversal will indeed be good news for them,” he added.

David Sanderson, who had been visiting Bario every year and remains close with the Kelabit community there, had earlier told him in a WhatsApp message that the former may not be able to visit this year.

Meanwhile, Deputy DUN Sarawak Speaker Dato Gerawat Gala, who is also Mulu state assemblyman, thanked MASwings for listening to the views of the rural community and affected Sarawakians in deciding to withdraw the proposed fare increase.

“The drastic increase in fares has no rational basis and should not have been proposed or considered at all. This is another one of the many examples of rash and unwise decisions and U-turns by the Pakatan Harapan government, “ he said.

He said the latest episode also showed their lack of knowledge and appreciation of the needs and livelihood of rural communities, compared to the state Government whose development policy is rural focused.

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