‘Sibu needs to tap into its storyline for tourism’

SIBU: Sibu should tap into its unique storyline in order to develop the tourism sector.

Malaysia Tourist Guides Council (MTGC) president Jimmy Leong said Sibu’s heritage trail contained many values and elements, but guides need to come up with a storyline to further market tourism products.

“I look at the potential; you have the heritage and recorded history, but you need to have a guide to interpret the story.

“Sibu has a beautiful storyline because when we look at the heritage, whenever there is a sea or a river, that is the jewel in the heritage story where settlements are created by the river and it was not the locals who built the town, it was the immigrants,” he told reporters yesterday after touring the town with 115 Malaysian tourist guides.

MTGC organised the event, which was hosted by the Sarawak Tourist Guides Association (STGA) in conjunction with Visit Sibu Year 2017.

He suggested Sibu guides use thematic interpretation – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) formula for story interpretation.

“Modern guiding is not about telling people about the name of the building or what is it for; people want stories.

“If I tell you ‘once upon a time’ and end it ‘… and they live happily ever after’ you would be interested,” he explained.

He said Sibu is also unique because the Chinese community here still practise the culture of their ancestors.

“People are talking about Foochow here and it has become an iconic thing here; Foochow food, culture, most importantly, the DNA of Foochow people,” he said.

He said guides need to study the factors behind the migration of the Chinese to Sibu.

“They must know why the Chinese came from China; the push factor and the full factor. What are the push factors and what pulled them here,” he said, pointing out such stories could draw Chinese nationals.

“All you need is a system. Just like in Georgetown and Melaka, the Unesco people had to train the guides, teaching them how to interpret it in a story way,” he said, claiming Sibu had more potential than Kuching.

He said the right marketing tools could also draw visitors from Peninsular Malaysia.

“Any tourist place, where you have the population and vibrant economy and you sit between the new and the old, can survive as tourism potential,” he said.

He added a heritage trial would also create awareness among the people of the importance of conserving and preserving old buildings.

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