This is a follow-up post to Leithen Francis’ recent article on the opportunities present in developing regional air routes to drive demand for Malaysia’s island resorts. I would like to offer my take on the issue from a traveller’s perspective.
When one thinks of travelling to the islands of neighbouring Malaysia from Singapore, one thinks of the pristine beaches of Tioman and Redang. I know of many friends who in the past picked up their diving licence in Tioman, mainly due to its close proximity to Singapore.
I also know many, including myself, who visited Redang for an island holiday. I got there by taking an overnight bus and then catching a ferry. Admittedly, the journey was quite tiring for me and, at times, scary because the bus tended to speed at night.
When we reached Redang, we were very happy to relax by the beach and snorkel in the surrounding waters. That was more than ten years ago. I have never thought of returning there since.
Because the plethora of low-cost carriers that have emerged in Southeast Asia since then has meant it is now easier to travel from Singapore to places like Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.
In the past ten years, I have travelled to tropical beach destinations such as Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui in Thailand, Danang in Vietnam and Bali in Indonesia. I have also returned numerous times to some of these places.
The underlying reason is greater connectivity. Even though Malaysia is next to Singapore, it is actually harder to get to Malaysia’s island resorts than it is to get to, for example, Phuket or Bali.
My need to relax at an island resort is easily fixed by hopping on a flight to Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam. The ease of reaching these resorts always wins me over.
It makes no sense for me to spend so much time travelling to Malaysia’s islands when I could be using that time to relax by the pool, explore local sights or indulge in a spa treatment.
I was recently asked to go to the luxurious eco-resort Japamala in Tioman Island for a long weekend getaway. I was hesitant. How do I get there? How long will it take and how comfortable will that be? In the end, I passed on that offer and went to Krabi instead.
It didn’t take me very long to get to Krabi as there were many daily flights there from Singapore. I know I am not the only one to make such a decision. Therefore, it sets me thinking that tourism to the islands in Malaysia needs a booster. The ease of connectivity is the root of the issue and the problem can be resolved if there were flights to these islands.
Berjaya Air, which is linked to the Malaysian resort operator of the same name, used to fly from Singapore to Tioman and Redang. But it suspended those services some years ago, preferring to cater to traffic from Kuala Lumpur. But can’t flights from Singapore to Tioman and Redang be resumed? I think it’s about time these beautiful islands get a booster.