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A national airline does not have to be government-owned, says PM Mahathir

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (pictured) recently said that a national airline does not necessarily have to be owned by the government. He added that the days of having a national airline for every country “is over”, according to an interview with Going Places, the in-flight magazine of Malaysia Airlines (MAB).

He added that today, it is possible for a country to have multiple airlines with one of them being known as the national airline as it bears the nation’s symbol. However, “it can be operated by the private sector”, the prime minister said. This was in response to a question about the value of having a national carrier other than for patriotism or pride, especially since airlines such as Lufthansa and British Airways have gone private.

(Read also: Sale of Malaysia Airlines: What a national carrier means to a country’s brand building)

The debate about having a national carrier has been going on for quite awhile, with MAB being thrown into the spotlight as the government has been studying options such as refinancing or selling off the airline. Last month, it brought on board Bryan Foong as group chief strategy officer to translate the strategic vision for group CEO Izham Ismail and MAB’s board of directors into strategic priorities and direction. Meanwhile, multiple media outlets also said that Morgan Stanley was picked to advise the Malaysian government on how to revive MAB, which has been struggling to stay afloat.

Separately, PM Mahathir added that there are “too many bureaucratic procedures” when it comes to tourism in Malaysia and these need to be reduced. Also, while the government has invested in places of interest to draw tourists, PM Mahathir said the government does not have the resources “to do everything” such as building theme parks. As such, he hopes that the private sector will take on that role.

Last month, the prime minister said that Malaysia is undertaking a comprehensive digitalisation journey to revolutionise its tourism industry through smart tourism initiatives that coincide with the fourth industrial revolution. As part of this, Special Tourism Investment Zones will be created across the country, PM Mahathir said, adding that “specific incentives” are being created to draw investments for infrastructure and new technology in the tourism sector.

He also expects tourist arrivals to Malaysia to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. During the first half of 2019, the country recorded a 6.8% growth in tourist receipts, contributing RM41.69 billion to the country’s revenue. The country received 13.35 million international tourists, a 4.9% increase during the same period last year. According to Tourism Malaysia, per capita expenditure increased by 1.9% from RM3.06 million during the first half of 2018 to RM3.1 million this year.

Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia also unveiled the new Visit Malaysia 2020 logo in July, with a style inspired by Malaysian batik. The logo features the rhinoceros hornbill perched on the left, illustrating the unique fauna and eco-adventures that Malaysia has to offer.

[advertising + marketing’s PR Asia will come to Malaysia this November, gathering together some of the finest minds in industry to explore the exciting and developing world of digital PR. Join us for a series of exclusive case studies, interactive and thought-provoking discussions at PR Asia on 20 November in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Register now.] 

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