Abg Johari: Sarawak expects to attract five million tourists this year

Abang Johari (front centre) holding up a T-shirt which states ‘Asean is the new cool’ as part of the promotion for Aiffa 2015. Also seen (from left) are Naroden, Gramong, Dr Leo and Sarawak Energy corporate services chief Aisah Eden.

Abang Johari prepares to clip a clapperboard as a gimmick for the soft launching of Aiffa 2015 which will be held in Kuching from April 9 to 11, as (from left) Aiffa 2015 festival director Livan Tajang, Naroden and Gramong look on. Also seen are (from right) Ik Pahon, Aiffa 2015 chief judge Uwei Saari, Angkatan Zaman Mansang Sarawak (Azam) chief executive officer Datu Aloysius Dris (fourth right) and Dr Leo (fifth right). — Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

KUCHING: The state is targeting to receive five million tourists this year, following a strong performance last year when it attracted 4.8 million visitors.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the number of arrivals at 4.857 million last year exceeded their target of 4.5 million tourists, an increase of 11 per cent from the 4.371 million recorded in 2013.

The number of foreign visitors last year was 2.99 million, an increase of 12 per cent from the 2.66 million recorded in 2013 while domestic arrivals reached 1.86 million, marking an improvement of nine per cent from the 1.7 million recorded the previous year. He also disclosed that the estimated tourism receipt for last year was RM10.86 billion.

“With regard to our tourism development, the state unexpectedly achieved well beyond target. Initially we thought it would reach 4.5 million but the final figure was 4.8 million. We expect tourism to become a very important driver in the services industry to our economy,” he told a press conference after officiating at the soft launch of the Asean International Film Festival and Awards (Aiffa) 2015 at Pullman Hotel here yesterday.

Assistant Tourism Minister (Local Products and Events) Datuk Gramong Juna, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Bumiputera Entrepreneur Development) Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais, Sarawak Convention Bureau chairman and Mukah MP Dato Sri Dr Muhammad Leo Michael Toyad and Tourism Ministry permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik were among those present.

Abang Johari mentioned that the bulk of tourists coming to the state last year were from Brunei, at 1.9 million. They mostly visited Miri, which recorded hotel occupancy rate of 67 per cent.

This was followed by Indonesians with about 550,000 arrivals, which he attributed to the medical and education sectors here.

Other visitors, he added, included those from the Philippines at 135,861, Singapore (49,059), China (39,735), United Kingdom (33,854), India (32,487), Thailand (31,955) and Australia (21,039).

To achieve the target, he explained that the Tourism Ministry was working with important agencies including Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and the Chief Minister’s Office Entrepreneur Unit besides receiving strong support from the corporate sector.

“We only have a niche, bona fide tourists and our main product is the ecotourism segment. We are focussing on targeting this type of market and that is why the state’s tourist arrivals consecutively remained between four and five million over the years.

“Considering that we achieved an unexpected 300,000 additional tourist arrivals last year, we are confident to achieve this target,” he continued.

To meet the increased number of tourists, Abang Johari said new hotels were being built in Kuching to increase the number of rooms to over 2,000.

Meanwhile, Naroden said the state government had received lots of applications for the establishment of budget and boutique hotels, which he added would further increase the number of rooms by 1,000.

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