Abang Johari: Sarawak in need of a brand to attract more visitors

THERE is a need to shape and create a brand identity for Sarawak not only as a tourist destination but also as a business event, trade and investment destination.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said based on the feedback his ministry received from foreigners during their numerous trade and travel shows abroad, Sarawak was not as well known overseas compared to Kuala Lumpur, Sabah, Penang or Malacca.

“The approach and strategy need to be holistic and cover as many sectors as possible,” Abang Johari said in his ministerial winding-up speech yesterday.

This was among the immediate initiatives and strategies taken by his ministry in line with the State Transformation Plan and in their effort to transform the tourism landscape of Sarawak.

He stated that in as far as tourism was concerned, his ministry would continue to position Sarawak as a culture, adventure and nature (CAN) destination.

Hence, Abang Johari said the intervention action plans and budget allocation for 2017 would focus on CAN-related infrastructure, facilities, events, festival and products development and enhancement.

In terms of product development and enhancement, he said the national parks would continue to be the most preferred destinations for nature and adventure both among local and international visitors.

Abang Johari noted that from January to September this year, the total visitor arrivals to the state’s national parks were 423,333, an increase of 9.27 per cent with total revenue amounting to RM4.53 million, a 13 per cent increase.

“Of the figure, 80 per cent were domestic while 20 per cent were international visitors. Mulu National Park, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, Bako National Park, Kuching Wetland, Niah National Park and Matang Wildlife Centre are the most visited by tourists because of their unique geo-system and wildlife conservation.”

He said the state’s Orang Utan conservation effort at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre had also produced positive results with the birth of two baby Orang Utans this year, hence increasing the Orang Utan population which would be an added attraction for visitors.

“For a start, facilities in the following national parks and nature reserves namely Bako, Semenggok, Kuching Wetland (Ramsar site), Wind Cave and Fairy Cave and Niah Cave will be given a facelift incorporating various tourists-friendly elements next year.

“Upgrading works include repair and replacement of jetties, plank walks and trails, signages, parking spaces, toilets, information centres and souvenir shops. The privatisation of several tourist services will also be carried out in our effort to improve quality and standard.”

In order to enhance tourists experience and create activities in the national parks, Abang Johari said numerous nature-based events such as the annual International Frog Race and the Sarawak International Bird Race were organised.

These were niche and specialised interest events which attracted nature enthusiasts, conservationists and photographers from all over the world, he added.

“The Kuching Waterfront area will be transformed into a vibrant weekend pedestrian zone where youth, sports, musical and dance activities alongside food and handicraft sales and hawkers will be allowed to operate.

“With the completion of the walkway from Kpg Boyan to Fort Margherita which houses the Brooke Gallery and the Pedestrian Bridge by end of 2017, the Kuching Waterfront landscape on both sides will be more attractive and pedestrian-friendly.”

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