KUCHING: The Tourism Ministry is optimistic that the state will achieve its target of receiving four million foreign tourists this year.
Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said last year 3.8 million foreign tourists visited Sarawak.
He said the confidence in achieving the target was based on the increase in the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the first two months of this year as compared with domestic tourists.
“In January, there were 227,000 foreign tourists coming into Sarawak as against 120,000 domestic travellers. In February, we received 188,000 foreigners as against 96,000 domestic tourists … meaning on average our foreign tourists is about 65 per cent of the total number of visitors,” he said.
He said this when met by reporters after presenting the Das Goldene Stadttor (Golden City Gate) awards won by the state in the Print Campaign Category at ITB Berlin Travel Show to Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud in the latter’s office at Menara Pelita in Petrajaya here yesterday.
Abang Johari, who is also Housing Minister, said he was optimistic that the trend would grow because there had been indications that Kuching, as a convention destination, was well known to those involved in conventions.
He said for this year alone there would be three international conventions to be held here and there would be more to come in the following years.
“For Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) to win the prestigious award in Berlin means that there is great potential for Sarawak to be a destination not only for European tourists but also other tourism fraternity.
“With that we have to improve our infrastructures in order to get ourselves prepared for the influx of tourists particularly from foreign countries,” he said.
He said in view of that, a few more national parks such as the Gunung Gading National Park in Lundu would be further developed in addition to the existing popular ones, including Bako National Park and Mulu National Park among others.
He pointed out that apart from getting the infrastructures ready, the state also had to work hard to improve its connectivity with other destinations.
“This is because in the international marketing pattern of tourism there is a possibility a lot of tourists will go to Asian countries and I foresee that in the next three years there will be lot of foreign tourists here as well as other destinations in the state, including Miri.
“Within next three years Kuching will be connected with other major destinations. I cannot reveal it now but I believe, in terms of connectivity, there is light at the end of the tunnel, including the possibility of getting MasWings to fly direct to Jakarta,” he noted.
Among those present during the occasion yesterday were Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Talip Zulpilip, Tourism Ministry permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik and STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan.