SHENZHEN, China: The Sarawak Tourism Travel Mart held in three major cities in China here, Beijing and Shanghai ended yesterday on a high note with participating Sarawak travel trade players receiving encouraging response from Chinese travel agents.
The event provided a platform for the states industry players to network as well as to showcase Sarawaks tourism offerings.
It was also part of state Tourism Ministrys and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB)s efforts to raise awareness of the state before strategising its entry into China and embarking on an aggressive promotion and marketing campaign in the republic.
Among the participants were Bel Air Travel and Tours, BlueOcean Developments Sdn Bhd and Ranee Boutique and Suites from Kuching, Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), Greatown Travel of Sibu and Brighton Travel and Tour Sdn Bhd of Miri.
SFC chief executive officer Datu Ali Yusof said Chinese travel operators, especially in Beijing, showed positive interest in eco-tourism.
Still, there is still a lot more that needs to be done in developing the infrastructure and packages of our products in order to be able to sell (them) to the buyers.
We have not packaged our products as SFC work scope is mainly focused on ensuring the protection and conservation of wildlife as well as flora and fauna, he said.
On working to create packages and enhance hospitality infrastructure especially in national parks, SFC deputy general manager for strategic planning Wong Ting Chung hoped to see private companies come in to provide the financial support and technical assistance.
The hospitality service includes the provision of accommodation, transport as well as food and beverage.
The maintenance cost of the facilities is very high and we dont have the budget to handle it. However, we will continue to work together with STB and other relevant parties to develop this sector, he added.
Greatown Travel managing director Ling said it was a good opportunity to introduce and market Sibu to the Chinese market.
The response is quite good and Ive also received positive queries (from agents) especially here in Shenzhen. But because Sarawak is a new destination, it will definitely take some time.
However, he felt that the time was too short to interact and allow for an elaborate introduction of Sarawak and its tourism products to those here.
This is a great start but we hope that the ministry and agencies would follow up on it, he said, emphasising the need to do more aggressive promotions.
He also pointed out that it was vital for the Tourism Ministry to continue facilitating local tourism players through various marketing and promotional activities in expanding opportunities.
We need to handle the Chinese market properly and carefully, so as not to spoil it. There is definitely a huge potential, he highlighted.
BlueOcean Development managing director Leslie Liew wanted the tourism mission to put more focus on travel trade players and promote key Sarawak tourism products such as the Malaysia My Second Home Programme, unique boutique hotels and various interesting tour packages.
We need to put our products forward so that the buyers have a better view of what Sarawak has to offer, he said.
On government support to assist industry players move forward, he pointed out that communication is an important key to understand their needs and achieve desired results.
Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg led an entourage on an 11-day tourism mission to China beginning Dec 1, covering Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
During the mission, Abang Johari launched a six-episode tourism documentary film in Mandarin that showcased Sarawak to the people of China apart from attending press conferences and meetings with tour operators, consul generals from Malaysian Embassy in respective cities as well as representatives from Tourism Malaysia offices in China.
There was also dinner as token of appreciation to the Chinese tourism fraternity and media for their support.
The entourage from the Tourism Ministry includes Housing Ministry permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon, Batang Ai assemblyman Malcolm Mussen, Saribas assemblyman Razi Sitam, Assistant Tourism Ministers Datuk Gramong Juna and Datuk Talib Zulpilip, Sarawak Forestry Corporation chief executive Datu Ali Yusop and Sarawak director of Tourism and Culture Ministry Suriya Charles Buas.