MIRI: The Ministry of Tourism and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) will develop Miri as a second gateway into the state by leveraging on tourist arrivals from Brunei.
Ministry of Tourism permanent secretary Datuk Ik Pahon Joyik said both the ministry and the board wish to establish greater connectivity under the spirit of Asean and the Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-Eaga).
“The arrival of people from the United Kingdom is around 14,000 through Bandar Seri Begawan last year. This figure is for tourists from the UK (United Kingdom) only and does not include tourists from other European countries such as Germany and France, including United States and Australia.
“This means that they must be flying using Royal Brunei Airlines and then from Brunei they drive down to Miri and beyond,” he said during a media dinner on Tuesday.
He said the ministry and board are looking into the possibility of packaging Sarawak, particularly the northern region, on Royal Brunei flights to London, Shanghai and Melbourne from Bandar Seri Begawan.
As both Brunei and Malaysia are Commonwealth member countries, tourists and visitors from Europe and Australia will not be subject to multiple entry visas and can just drive down to Miri from Brunei.
“The only group we are looking at now is tourists from China. Last year alone, the United Nation’s Tourism Report revealed over 100 million Chinese going outbound where 70 per cent went out to Korea, Japan and Macau,” he said.
“The other 30 per cent go out to Southeast Asia. Just imagine if we can get one per cent from 100 million. For Malaysia, last year’s data was below 300,000 in the arrivals of tourists from China and around 35,000 arrivals into Sarawak.”
On hotel occupancy rates, Ik said Miri leads with 68 per cent followed by Kuching at 52 per cent.
He revealed that 38 per cent of hotel guests were foreigners from other countries and the remaining Bruneians.
“That is why we can’t take for granted our neighbour Brunei. It is actually a contributing factor to the economy of Miri,” he said.
He pointed out that last year, the state government and Ministry of Tourism initiated the Sarawak-Brunei Tourism Working Group chaired by Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.
“The working group is also looking into creating joint promotion and marketing for both Brunei and Sarawak. We want to include Miri as part of the Royal Brunei Airlines package. We want to enhance our relationship with Brunei not only in Asean but also BIMP-Eaga. Brunei and Sarawak, particularly Miri, are sharing a common boundary. Traditionally we have been neighbours and friends with each other, so we want to leverage on that,” he said.