Abdul Karim: Visitor arrivals expected to hit 5-million mark, generate RM8.98b

Abdul Karim holds up his winding-up speech during a photo call with Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin.

THE STATE has received a total of 3.72 million visitor arrivals from January to September this year, an increase of 9.81 per cent compared to the same period in 2016 which saw 3.3 million arrivals.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, in his winding up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) yesterday, said the state’s tourism industry has so far generated an estimated receipt of RM6.9 billion.

“Based on past trends of average arrivals for the month of October to December, my ministry is anticipating five million visitor arrivals into Sarawak in 2017, an increase of 7.3 per cent as compared with 4.66 million in 2016,” he said.

The state’s tourism sector, he added, is expected to generate tourism receipts of RM8.98 billion (6.9 per cent increase), contributing about 8.2 per cent towards the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) this year. “For 2018, my ministry is targeting 5.25 million visitor arrivals and an estimated tourism receipt of RM9.82 billion.”

Acknowledging the important contribution of the tourism sector to the state’s economy through the service sector, Abdul Karim said the government – through the Socio-Economic Transformation Programme – has approved 14 Key Result Areas (KRAs) projects and programmes early this year worth RM 51 million.

Out of 14 projects and programmes, he said two have already been completed, 10 are still in progress, while the remaining two are in the preliminary stage.

“A total of RM11.3 million has been spent in 2017 while the balance will be utilised in 2018 and 2019,” he added.

Among the KRAs projects and programmes are the upgrading of various tourism infrastructure and facilities at the Wind Cave, Fairy Cave, Kuching Waterfront area and Kuching Heritage Trail, as well as upgrading works to the jetty near Santubong Bridge to cater to visitors, anglers and divers heading to Kuching Wetlands National Park (KWNP), which is recognised as a Ramsar wetland.

Abdul Karim said  his ministry will also continue to develop other new tourism products and attractions, namely the conversion of Brooke Dockyard into a maritime museum, the construction of a walkway in front of the new DUN complex to connect the pedestrian bridge with Fort Margherita, conversion of the old DUN building into a performing arts centre, construction of the Gold Mine Museum and park in Bau, and the conversion of the Old Resident Office in Miri into a cultural and heritage centre.

“Most of these projects are expected to be completed by end of 2018,” he added.

Other than projects under the KRAs, ongoing and approved new tourism projects under the 11th Malaysia Plan being implemented by the state includes state-funded projects with a total allocation of RM26.5 million comprising Phase II of the Dalat Waterfront project, the walkway leading from Kampung Boyan to Fort Margherita, upgrading of North Yu Seng Road or popularly known as Wireless Walk, development of tourism facilities at Bakam Point, upgrading work at the Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) centre in Sungai Tujuh, and tourism-related facilities at Tusan Beach, Peliau Bekenu.

The minister also revealed that federal-funded projects implemented under the second rolling plan of the 11th Malaysia Plan by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia involves an allocation of RM28.12 million for the construction of a walkway and jetty at KWNP, construction of Baram Waterfront in Marudi, upgrading works at Panchor Hot Spring in Serian, and the construction of a Baruk at Kampung Gumbang in Bau.

He further revealed that the state’s national parks have remained as preferred destinations for eco-tourists, both domestic and foreign, because of their diverse biodiversity, beautiful and unique landscape, and wildlife varieties.

As of September this year, the national parks recorded 462,361 visitor arrivals where 102,051 were foreigners and 360,310 domestic. Over the same period last year, the national parks recorded 422,485 visitors, of which 94,263 were foreigners and 328,222 domestic.

“This indicates a positive growth of 8.6 per cent in total visitors’ arrival to national parks in the state. National parks that recorded the highest number of visitors are Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, Bako National Park, Matang Wildlife Centre, Niah National Park and Gunung Mulu National Park.”

On another note, Abdul Karim said events and festivals have always been a pull factor to both domestic and foreign tourists while also providing business opportunities to locals.

He noted that the 20th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) saw the ministry, together with Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), taking a different approach to promote and add value to the festival by organising the Rainforest Fringe Event (RFF) on July 7 – a week prior to the main festival.

“In the past series, the festival was only confined to SCV and many felt that Kuching City and Kuchingites did not feel the heat and the beat.

“Our ultimate aim was to engage and bring Kuchingites to have a feel and be part of the whole festival,” he added.

Besides festival-oriented events, he said Sarawak has been able to position itself as one of the second-tier destinations for business events in the region.

From January to October this year, Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) has brought in 73 business events to Sarawak, comprising 47 Bid Wins and 26 Bids Supported.

“The 73 business events represent close to 25,000 delegates and 73,000 delegate days, translating to approximately RM81.7 million in direct delegate expenditure to Sarawak.”

He further said that SCB’s activities for 2018 will be championed by sales and marketing, backed by industry development activities.

“The long-term aims are to create a sustainable business events sector, and the short-term aims are to continue to secure more business events for Sarawak,” he added.

Abdul Karim also pointed out that the marketing and promotion of tourism in the state has never been as challenging as this year due to the introduction of the Tourism Tax Act, which took effect on Sept 1, which created a drawback towards the industry as the destination became less competitive compared to other emerging destinations in the region.

“STB has increased its marketing activities in all markets in order to remain relevant, especially in capitalising on digital marketing platform. STB has upgraded its four major websites for a better and more user-friendly website.

“Facebook marketing has taken greater emphasis for the older executives and other social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, WeChat and Weibo for the younger millennials,” he added.

Abdul Karim went on to mention that STB has also been tasked to facilitate and support any airlines that show interest to fly into Sarawak.

“In June, AirAsia launched its Kuching-Pontianak-Kuching daily flight and in August, AirAsia also launched its four-times-weekly Langkawi-Kuching-Langkawi flight, both on its 180-seater A320 aircraft.

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