KUCHING: The state Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry is seeking approval from the federal government to introduce Visa On Arrival (VOA) facility in Miri and Sungai Tujuh immigration checkpoints.
Its minister, Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, who is also deputy chief minister, said they had sent the application to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the Home Minister, last week.
“We want to designate and gazette Miri and Sungai Tujuh immigration checkpoints to issue VOA, especially for Chinese tourists,” he said.
Abang Johari highlighted this at the launching of 101 Holidays in Sarawak by Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) Sarawak and the first Mita Sarawak Business Networking Session at Riverside Majestic Hotel here yesterday.
“We have c ol laborat ion with Brunei and their RBA fl ights are also bringing tourists from China.
So, when the Chinese tourists are in Brunei, they can obtain visa to come into Miri,” he added.
The state, he emphasised, has in recent years been aggressively promoting Sarawak as a tourism destination in China, especially Hong Kong.
On the lack of air connectivity, Abang Johari said Sarawak could not depend on Malaysia Airline (MAS) or MASWings.
“MAS is neither alive nor dead (hidup pun tidak, mati pun tidak), so our tourism ‘pun mati pun tidak, hidup pun tidak’, while MasWings constantly cancelled its flights.
So we cannot rely on people to determine our life,” he said.
“And due to monopoly, they (MASWing) also raised their fares. Now they cut down their flights between Sarawak. Hence, we decided to work with other airlines including Singapore Airline and Silk Air besides RBA Brunei,” he said.
Abang Johari believed that tourists holidaying in the region like Brunei would want to maximise their money spent on vacation to see more than one place.
“So they could get VOA to explore Miri that offers so many interesting and unique attractions including Mulu heritage site, the Blue Tears in Tusan Beach and the Lambir National Park, just to name a few,” he said.
“We hope to hear the good news from the federal government on the VOA soon,” he added.
Abang Johari also pointed out the need to upgrade the digital infrastructure across Sarawak especially in rural areas.
“Major tourism products are in the rural areas and tourism is also the main contributor to Sarawak’s economy.
And ICT infrastructure plays key role in enabling accessibility to these products,” he said.
“The digital highway is as important as the Pan Borneo Highway and the state government is giving pressure to the federal government to push for more development in Sarawak because it is the enabler for the way forward,” he added.
On the ‘101 Holidays in Sarawak’, which is a campaign to promote Sarawak and boost domestic tourism, Abang Johari lauded Mita Sarawak for coming up with such a creative and innovative idea.
The campaign offers 101 holiday packages for travellers to choose what best suits their interest and budget.
Packages range from cultural to nature tours to national parks and tribal communities to specialized tours for bird watching, diving, sport fishing, jungle trekking and mountain climbing which will be made available and online this November.
Other packages and tours include photography, traditional wedding ceremonies, homestays as well as abundance of local ethnic cuisine.
He urged the participants to collaborate, interact, work closely together and find ways to develop local tourism products.
Some 70 international and local buyers including from the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Jordan and Peninsular Malaysia participated in the first ever business networking for the hospitality and tourism industry yesterday.
Buyers had the opportunity to meet and discuss with Sarawak industry partners comprising tour operators, homestay operators, upscale restaurant operators, hotels as well as lifestyle cafes and venues.
The event also witnessed the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Mita and 12 founding consortium partners who made this campaign possible.
Also present were Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin, permanent secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datu Ik Pahon, Mita
president Uzaidi Udanis, Tourism Malaysia Domestic Promotion director Iskandar Mirza Mohd Yusof, Sarawak Tourism Board acting chief executive officer (CEO) Mary Wan and Mita Sarawak chairwoman Gracie Geikie.