TOURIST arrivals in Sarawak dropped seven per cent last year compared with the corresponding period in 2014.
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the number totalled about 4.5 million last year and generated some RM9.87 billion in tourist receipts.
“The arrival figure indicates a decrease of seven per cent compared to 2014,” he said in his winding-up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) yesterday.
But tourism remained an important contributor to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP), contributing 9.3 per cent to the state GDP in 2015.
He said because of its big growth potential, the state government had started several studies, made several inter-governmental collaborations, and introduced new strategies to transform this sector.
Among the initiatives are a master plan study to develop the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) hinterland, where eco-tourism has
been identified as having great potential, especially within Bakun Lake area, the surrounding islands and national parks.
Another master plan targets developing the Lundu-Sematan Coastal Area, where tourism has been identified as one of the four strategic thrusts to drive development in the Lundu-Sematan area.
Other steps include creating more areas for forest reserves and national parks; conserving and upgrading of historical forts; collaborating with the private sector to develop new tourism products and facilities; and collaborating with international partners and institutions to attract foreign investment, and acquiring of skills and expertise.
There would also be efforts to woo airlines into major towns, with Kuching serving as the main gateway, Miri as the gateway for the northern region, and Sibu as the gateway for the central region.
Abbang Johari said his ministry also planned to develop the Padawan/Bau/Lundu eco-tourism belt. The study for this project would be done by collaborating with Padawan Municipal Council (MPP), Bau District Council and Lundu District Council.
“To ensure effective and efficient coordination and implementation of the State Tourism Transformation Programme, my ministry has been tasked to set up the State Tourism Task Force. Key agencies and individuals will
be appointed to be in the task force.”
In addition, his ministry would also be looking at other segments, such as health and wellness, education, sports and business tourism to complement the state as a culture, adventure and nature (CAN) destination.