Wednesday, July 17

‘Sibu needs to develop eco-tourism to attract tourists’

2

SIBU: Tour operators here have been urged to design exciting inbound tour packages in order to tap into the vast eco-tourism potential of Sibu and its hinterlands.

Sibu divisional tourism task group (STTG) chairman Sim Kok Kee said this would provide the niche factor to entice tourists, making up for its lack of places of interest.

“Thus far, there is only one tour operator who is actively providing inbound tour packages.  We hope other operators will jump onto the band wagon to creatively come up with inbound tour packages,” Sim told The Borneo Post.

He believes that eco-tourism will appeal to a particular segment of tourists who have no qualms about spending money just to experience the attractions.

At a ‘Majlis Ramah Tamah Aidilfitri’ held here last Monday, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said eco-tourism was poised to become the most important economic sector for the state to generate wealth.

Taib said this was because it would open up the interiors such as Belaga and Ulu Baram to the outside world, and showcase the state’s rich natural heritage and cultures.

Citing bird-watching, Sim, who is also Sibu Resident, said: “There are tourists who would love to spend hours watching a particular species of birds while enjoying the panoramic view of nature.”

To this, he hoped that Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) would help to identify possible sites for the unique activity, adding that he had heard positive comments from some animal lovers that they sighted rare species of birds at Bukit Lima Nature Park.

Echoing Sim’s view, Sarawak Central Region Hoteliers Association chairman Johnny Wong Sie Lee recalled that some years ago a group of Japanese scholars visited Kanowit just to view the mystical pitcher plants there.

Wong, who used to operate inbound tours, believes that it is vital that Sibu come up with eco-tourism products to attract tourists.

“Mind you, people will not visit Sibu just for the sake of tasting ‘Kampua mee’ or ‘Kompia’.

“The mighty Rajang River is no stranger to tourists but we need to come up with packages to get the ball rolling,” he suggested.

He believes that even a mini zoo similar to that in Bintulu would be a crowd puller.

“There are tourists who are not interested in anything else except animals or nature, including jungle trekking. They would travel round the globe for that,” he said.

But for the industry to takeoff, he said it was crucial to ensure good air connectivity.

“If the airfare costs a ‘bomb’, it is likely to spook off tourists,” he chuckled.

Noting the wide market for eco-tourism, Sarawak Tourism Board Sibu executive Rudy Anoi said: “I believe exciting eco-tourism products will definitely help complement the places of interest here and pull in tourists.”