Speech by Chief Minister of Penang
Qatar Airways' inaugural flight from Doha to Penang
6 February, 5.30pm @ Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort
It’s my honour and great pleasure to extend a very warm welcome to all of you to Penang.
This is indeed a momentous occasion because today, 6th February 2018, marks the start of the inaugural flight from Doha to Penang by Qatar Airways.
Penang is immensely proud to be chosen by this multiple award-winning airline that operates flights to more than 150 business and leisure destinations. And what makes us even more proud is that the flight from Doha to Penang is the very first direct long haul flight by an international airline to Penang. This makes Penang as the second gateway into Malaysia by the award-winning Qatar Airways from Doha, as it had first launched its flight to Malaysia in December 2001, operating a triple-daily service to Kuala Lumpur currently.
Today onwards, Penang will have its own thrice-weekly direct long haul flights between Doha and Penang on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with its state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner, featuring 22 seats in Business Class and 232 seats in Economy Class with spacious cabins and specially-designed interiors.
All along, there have been short haul flights to Penang from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, operated by other airlines that bring in visitors from the east. Now, not only can Penang open its doors to welcome Qatar travellers but also travellers from the west due to the easy connectivity via Doha to Penang. Penang can also enjoy arrivals from non-traditional European countries as well such as Austria, Scandinavia as well as the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) and other Middle-Eastern countries. On the other hand, this route offers travellers from Penang another transit option, apart from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Thailand, to fly to other parts of the world such as Europe and the US.
And I am very pleased to break a good news to you all that, Qatar Airlines has decided to increase its Penang frequency from 3 times weekly to 4 times weekly. This new flight will be on Sundays, effective on 1 July 2018. I'm informed that even before the flight today, the airlines has received strong travel demand from travellers. This shows how Penang has positioned itself among the other big cities in South East Asia as a big tourism players. Congratulations Qatar Airlines, you have made the right choice by choosing Penang as another gateway to Malaysia and South East Asia.
Tourism and hotel sector, one of the state's economic main contributors, is doing very well each year. More visitors were recorded and Penang has been getting international accolades and recognition, putting the state in world map.
Passengers traffic (departure and arrival) at the Penang International Airport (PIA) hit an all time high of 7.2 million passengers last year, an increase of 8% comparing to just 6.6 million passengers in 2016. This has exceeded the airport’s maximum capacity of 6.5 million, the number projected to reach in year 2020. I hope the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak would expedite the expansion plan for PIA as he announced last year in the 2018 Budget to increase the passenger capacity from 6.5 million passengers to 12 million passengers a year. This is important as PIA has brought positive economy impact to the state and the country, by being the second busiest airports in the country despite its small size.
The Penang State Tourism Bureau together with state agency, Penang International Halal Hub or PIHH, have been undertaking various efforts to promote Penang as a premier modern Muslim hub. A complete travel guide called "Experience Penang - A Muslim Travel Guide'’ has been available to aid their discerning needs and interest when on leisure or business trips to Penang. The travel guide can also be downloaded via PIHH’s website or phone app for fast and efficient access of information.
We have also started promotions with Qatar Airways and Tourism Malaysia offices abroad targeting countries where flights from Doha connect such as the UK, Netherlands, Frankfurt, Spain, France, Switzerland, US as well as Kuwait and Qatar. Now that Penang is more globally connected, there will certainly be more focus on the marketing efforts undertaken targeting Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Before I end my speech, on behalf of the Penang State Government, I wish to take this opportunity to thank Qatar Airways once again for adding Penang into its great web of flight destinations.
We most certainly look forward to a profitable and productive relationship with Qatar Airways.
Thank you all and have a great evening.