KUCHING: Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg is optimistic that Sarawak will be able to achieve the 4.5 million tourist arrivals in the state this year.
He said in the first two months of the year over 700,000 tourists had been registered, an increase of 4 per cent from the same period last year.
“We received 4.3 million tourists last year, about 70 per cent of them foreigners. I think after hosting Asean Tourism Forum, Routes Asia and other conventions, there is a good possibility that we may reach 4.5 to 4.6 million tourist arrivals this year,” he told a press conference here yesterday.
Abang Johari said his ministry had lined up various events such as World Harvest Festival, Pesta Kaul, Borneo Jazz Festival and Pesta Benak in order to attract tourists to the state.
While acknowledging that the MH370 disaster would have some effect on the Chinese tourist arrivals, he believed that the effect would be minimal, adding that in the first two months of this year about 8,000 Chinese tourist arrivals were already recorded.
“We received many tourists from Europe and Australia. Many Chinese tourists on the other hand prefer Sabah because of the diving facilities there.”
However, Abang Johari said Chinese tourists were starting to look at Sarawak as a potential destination after his discussions with Chinese airline operators during the Routes Asia conference.
“We have to promote (Sarawak) aggressively because they (Chinese tourists) like diving.
“Actually, we have good diving spots which are not aggressively promoted such as the Japanese shipwrecks at Tanjung Sepang near Bako National Park.
“That is considered historical because the ships were naval ships that sank during World War II and everything on them, including canons are still intact.
“I am working with Sarawak Rivers Board and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency to condone the area.”
He also said his ministry was working with the Japanese Defence Ministry to obtain more information about the warships considering their historical value.
“Once we have all the information we will get cracking with promoting the area — a good pool for divers.
“Another good diving spot is the sea off Miri,” he added.
The sea off Honolulu, Hawaii (Pearl Harbour) is a famous diving spot because of the many sunken ships there.