Friday, June 21

Proposal to hike entry fees at wildlife centre


MAIN ATTRACTION: An average of 300,000 visitors go to Semenggoh to see Orang Utans in semi wild conditions every year. File photo by Jeffery Mostapha

KUCHING: Foreign visitors going to the iconic Semenggoh Wildlife Centre — where the Orang Utan primates live in semi-wild conditions — maybe asked to pay more when visiting next time.

At the moment, these visitors including domestic tourists and locals pay only RM3 entry fee but this amount has been found to be insufficient to cover the regular upkeep of the place despite it receiving 300,000 visitors every year.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit, who made suggestion for the fee increase, said foreign visitors should be paying RM10 or roughly US3 dollars which he considered to be still cheap.

“I have told the Sarawak Forestry Corporation to consider the suggestion. They have done a Cabinet paper to that effect. Whether approved or not, I do not know. I have yet to meet the chief minister on the matter,” he said during the Meet-The People function at Kampung Garung, Jalan Puncak Borneo, 40km from here on Sunday evening.

Dawos, who is Mambong MP, also mentioned his vision to turn Jalan Puncak Borneo, which leads to Borneo Heights Resort, into a new tourism icon.

He said this was because, at the moment, tourists visiting Semenggoh Wildlife Centre also at Jalan Puncak Borneo often
did not go further up the road to explore the other attractions available.

As such, he pledged to ask for an allocation of RM200,000 to upgrade the weekend market at Kampung Garung into a Biperoh Tourism Market which would become a new tourist destination.

“Those tourists, after visiting Semenggoh, may ask ‘what are the other attractions along Jalan Puncak Borneo?’

“Well, we have the hot spring in Annah Rais, tourist information centre at Kampung Timurang where there is a rafflesia garden, and soon the Biperoh Tourism Market,” he said.

On the Biperoh Tourism Market, he said facilities such as stalls would be set up for the sale of authentic Bidayuh cuisine, farm and jungle produce, and handicrafts.

Apart from that, there would be a cultural centre which would include a museum of the Biperoh people, a Bidayuh clan living mainly in Penrissen area, he added.

Dawos made the announcement in response to the request by Biperoh Association of Kuching (BAK) president Dr Benedict Poris for funds to upgrade the place, which was opened last November and managed by BAK.

Dawos said he supported the activities of BAK, which along with other Bidayuh clan associations could complement the role of the Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA).

On another matter, he said Malaysia attracted 24.6 million foreign tourists last year, resulting in RM56.5 billion foreign exchange, and the country was ranked 9th in Asia in terms of tourism arrivals even higher than Singapore and Thailand.

Although tourism was now the nation’s second biggest revenue generating sector, he said the effects were not felt in Bidayuh areas and he in his current ministerial capacity would strive to ensure the Bidayuh community was not left out from participating in this sector.

He also pledged to realise the idea to make Kuching the second geopark in Malaysia after Langkawi, and he would bring experts to do verification before gazetting is done by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).