SEPANG: The domestic aviation industry is seeing an eastward shift in the world air traffic, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said traffic forecasts by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) suggests passenger traffic in the region is also expected to grow by an average 5.3 percent annually up to 2045.

“These trends of growth are certainly to our advantage,” he said adding that the aviation industry plays a crucial role in our nation’s economic growth.

“As we progress to become a developed nation, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Malaysia Airports Holding Bhd (MAHB) have an important role to play in facilitating the current economic aspirations of the government,” he said while speaking at the 21st anniversary celebration of the airport, here today.

Dr Mahathir said the digital transformation of KLIA towards Airports 4.0 encompasses advanced technologies such as facial recognition, big data analytics and Internet of Things (IoT), adding that such technologies would give Malaysia a competitive edge in the global economy.

He said there is also a need to strengthen Malaysia’s position to ensure the success of Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

“As part of the campaign, we hope to be able to increase flight connectivity to Malaysia and attract more tourists from ASEAN, China, India, United Kingdom and Germany.”

He further thanked Malaysia Airports for its contribution in setting up two Tourism Promotion Funds totaling RM25 million in collaboration with Tourism Malaysia.

Malaysia Airports play a significant role in the national aerospace agenda, Dr Mahathir added.

Since the launch the National Aerospace Blueprint in 2015, MAHB has invested RM50 million in common infrastructure and facilities refurbishment at Subang Airport.

He said the government is also committed in ensuring the growth of the aviation industry is sustainable.

“This is evident through the establishment of the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) to regulate the economic aspects of the industry as well as National Aviation Consultative Council (NACC) to address the local aviation development, challenges and direction to aid the country’s trade and economy.”

Dr Mahathir also said airports should be more than an infrastructure.

“It’s an economic catalyst, a tourism enabler and often the first impression of a country. Therefore, with a 100 square kilometre landbank, it is the government’s hope to see development outpace the demand."

He also said it is good to learn about plans regarding KLIA Aeropolis and welcomed it.

“The KLIA Aeropolis should change the landscape of Malaysian aviation to be more integrated and a complete ecosystem.

The strategic plan for KLIA Aeropolis encompasses air cargo and logistics, aerospace and aviation; and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and leisure.

“One of the success of KLIA Aeropolis is the development of its Digital Free Trade Zone Park, a partnership with Alibaba Group, which is set to be operational in June 2020.”

Dr Mahathir later told reporters that in 1998 he never dreamed of low cost airlines but today the industry has become very big.

“But in the future maybe we need the space for who knows you will travel three hours to London.”

Also present was MAHB chairman Tan Sri Zainun Ali.