Friday, June 21

STF chief: More than one way to promote tourism in state

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KUCHING: Tourism operators in the state are serious about marketing Sarawak but are not confining the channels to international trade shows.

Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) president Audrey Wan Ullok said Sarawak-based travel agents are selective on which events to attend at international exhibitions and trade shows.

“They will attend trade shows relevant to the market they are targeting. Each travel agent has his own niche market and client base.

“Tourism players in Sarawak learnt from experience that many government-organised overseas marketing trips give poor returns, so they use a multitude of other marketing channels,” she told The Borneo Post yesterday.

She was responding to Tourism Deputy Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit’s recent comments to the media that he was disappointed with the reluctance of Sarawak travel agents and tourism players to market the state at international travel conventions.

“I am surprised by these remarks and the deputy minister’s understanding of the reality and market dynamics of Sarawak’s tourism industry.

“International travel exhibitions are not the only means of marketing Sarawak. For some local travel companies, Internet marketing through online booking website may offer better returns than attending trade shows.

“Moreover, many Sarawak operators do not market directly to overseas agents. Instead, they work closely with other major establishments or agents from West Malaysia who are part of the global tourism distribution network,” she explained.

Dawos had commented that lack of seriousness in promoting Sarawak resulted in foreign tourists flocking to West Malaysia and Sabah instead.

Audrey said this was a simplistic statement showing poor understanding of Sarawak’s tourism industry and its challenges.

“Sarawak is losing its share of the tourism market to Sabah as Sabah invests heavily in its protected area network and wildlife management, and has better air connectivity.

“In contrast, Sarawak’s national parks lack facilities while air access to the state remains problematic,” she said.

Audrey noted the need for a dialogue with the ministry to let it know what the private sector is going through.

“We support what the government is doing, but we have our challenges. STF and its members are more than happy to discuss issues with the deputy minister and brief him on Sarawak’s tourism industry and the challenges we face.

“We believe the best way forward is for the private sector and government agencies to work together,” she said.