Sarawak to up its efforts to woo more tourists — Abg Jo

KUCHING: The Tourism Ministry will work closely with Brunei, major local tourism players and government agencies, and target new eastern European markets like Hungary and Austria to boost tourist arrivals next year.

Its minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state was holding talks with the Brunei government to form a Borneo Airbus.

He, however, did not elaborate on this proposal other than saying it would involve plying between Miri, Brunei Darussalam and Kota Kinabalu.

On strengthening ties with government agencies, he said the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) would be roped in to enhance facilities and accessibility to national parks like Niah, Mulu, Gunung Gading, and Semenggoh for the comfort of visitors.

I have also requested a bigger allocation from the 11th Malaysia Plan to upgrade our facilities and to help equip our tourism players with the latest technologies, he said at his ministrys Tourism Appreciation Nite cum launch of Sarawak Calendar of Events 2015 here on Sunday.

He stressed that technology was no longer an option to survive in the tourism industry.

Technology is now not an option as bookings for flights, accommodations and restaurants are all mostly done via online. This makes technology a vital tool to boost our local tourism industry.

On attracting Chinese visitors, Abang Johari said the state hoped to woo at least 80,000 of them here next year. This figure, he pointed out, was a mere drop in the ocean as about 100 million Chinese nationals travel outside China for vacations, especially to Japan and South Korea.

To bring in more Chinese tourists, he said a charter flight from China would be flying into the state in March or April next year.

We will also be doing promotions in new eastern European markets such as Hungary and Austria.

Another important sector to tap, he added, was medical tourism, which had experienced an influx of patients, especially from Indonesia.

We have four private hospitals in Kuching providing world-class service, while our resorts can provide these patients a place to relax after their treatment.

Despite all the major planning, he said another area that needed to be ironed out was restoring the confidence of foreign tourists who were now doubtful of travelling to Malaysia following the MH17 and MH370 tragedies as well as high profile kidnappings in Sabah.

This is where our Minister of Tourism and Culture Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz is currently working very hard on.

On the airline industry, he said, he said it was expected to take advantage of the slump in the global oil market by offering attractive flight packages.

The current weakness in the ringgit and low inflation rate would also make Malaysia more attractive to foreign travellers, as compared to other regions.

On Visit Malaysia Year 2015, themed Malaysia Year of Festival (MyFest2015), he said the state would continue to improve its calendar of events.

The state would be holding 10 major events next year: AIIFA Film Festival, Pesta Kaul Mukah, Borneo Jazz Festival, World Harvest Festival, Pesta Babulang, Rainforest World Music Festival, Borneo Cultural Festival, Borneo International Kite Festival, Regatta Sarawak, and Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta.

On tourist arrivals, he said as of October this year, 3.94 million people visited the state. The figure for the whole of this year is expected to be about 4.5 million.

In 2013, Sarawak recorded a total of 4.37 million tourist arrivals. The target for next year is at least 4.6 million visitors.

At the event, Abang Johari presented a memento to outgoing Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Dato Rashid Khan and Certificates of Appreciation to those involved in the 14th East Asia Inter-Regional Tourism Forum (Eatof) General Assembly that was held here last August.

Also present were Tourism Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen, Assistant Minister for Tourism Datuk Gramong Juna, Ministry of Tourism permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik.