KUCHING: Malaysia, especially Sarawak, will promote itself as a major eco-tourism destination in the region to tap the shifting global trend among tourists towards eco-tourism.
Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, citing statistics from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), said tourists were now flocking to places such as Central Africa, the Amazon in Central America, Kenya in Africa, and Southeast Asian countries.
“When there is a trend like that, Malaysia thinks we can play a role in attracting interests towards new products based on our bio-diversity,” he said during a special interview session with journalists covering the 17th Meeting of Asean Tourism Ministers here yesterday.
The meeting was held in conjunction with the Asean Tourism Forum 2014 (ATF 2014), which is hosted by Malaysia, and is being held here.
Attending this eight-day international forum are leaders and delegates from Asean member countries and their dialogue partners, including those from East Asia.
Abang Johari enthused that this huge event would do the state very well in terms of wooing more foreign tourists to its shores.
He added that after developing its energy and industrial sectors, the next move for the state was to develop the services sector such as tourism, which required good infrastructure in order to attract more visitors.
The government, he said, would be “putting in a lot of money” in the 11th Malaysia Plan to boost its tourism industry, and it would work closely with the private sector to realise its goals.
Among others, Abang Johari said, the state had engaged experts from New Zealand to conduct a masterplan study on hinterland tourism with the aim of developing eco-friendly rural tourism infrastructure.
Hinterland tourism would also benefit homestay operators, he opined.
Another area in the state that is still under study is coastal tourism, and the main idea is to give tourists the option to fly and cruise at the same time.
To materialise this proposed project, the state government had earmarked the coast from Bako National Park all the way to Tanjung Datu to be developed for coastal tourism.
“We already have the Kota Kinabalu-Bandar Seri Begawan-Bintulu-Kota Kinabalu cruise. Now, we are going to work together with Singapore. Singapore has a terminal at Marina Bay, and from there they can have a cruise and can sail to areas in Borneo, including Sarawak.”
Abang Johari said once the study on coastal tourism was completed in October this year, he would hold discussions with the federal government and private sector to implement the necessary infrastructure.
On foreign receipts from tourism, he said the state government was estimating about RM8 billion from the more than four million tourists targeted for this year.
“Once all the infrastructure is fully developed in five years time, Sarawak will become one of the most interesting destinations in the region, for it will offer tourism products based on nature, culture and adventure that are liked by the tourists.”