LANGKAWI: The travel trade community here has thrown its support behind the five ferry operators who have sought for a fare increase from the Transport Ministry in view of the rising operating and maintenance costs.
However, these travel groups have insisted that services among the operators and at the four ferry terminals need to be improved and upgraded.
They also said local islanders should be allowed to pay the old fare rates if they commute daily.
Ferries plying four different inbound routes represent the main transport mode into the duty-free entreport where tourism is the main economic activity.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke revealed that the operators had sought for an increase after their previous attempt was rejected in January this year.
It was learnt that the fare increase was mooted at between RM3 and RM5 per trip.
The current one – way fares are RM23 from Kuala Kedah, RM18 from Kuala Perlis; RM60 to RM80 from Penang and RM35 from Satun (Thai) to the leading island resort here.
On top of it, there are private charter services by yachting operators.
Tourism Langkawi Organisation pro tem chairperson Ahmad Pishol Isahak said that the travel trade community would only agree to a hike if the services are improved.
“For better connectivity, we could increase trips from other destinations such as Krabi and Penang. Or increase new routes and frequencies. Also, there must be amenities such as snacks onboard the ferries, especially for long journeys.”
Terminals at Kuala Kedah, Kuala Perlis, Penang and Langkawi also need upgrades, most importantly for the restrooms.
Ahmad Pishol said that tourists are willing to pay top dollar for quality services and products.
“But do not expect us to support if fares are increased but services stay stagnant.”
The Kedah-Perlis chapter of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) also supported the hike, provided there is an improvement in the services, its chairperson Eugene Dass told theSun.
Dass, who is the group general manager of the Star City and Fuller Hotels in Alor Star, said that the services can be upgraded by speeding up the travelling time.
Langkawi Businesses Association deputy president Datuk Alexander Issac said that he understands that the operating costs are high, hence a fare hike can be supported.
But it must be done on conditions that the services must be improved and there is no hike for Langkawi residents.
The hike should only be applicable to tourists, he noted.
He also urged the tourism authorities to boost the arrivals of tourists to offset rising operating costs.