KUCHING: Conservation of Sarawak’s rich biodiversity and culture is a strong part of the state’s tourism industry.
Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said the state is blessed with a heritage of nature, with many unique places still inaccessible.
“This is the state’s niche tourism and we hope to maintain some of these elements for future generations of tourists, so at the moment, we are not rushing to capitalise on tourism in a mass market way,” he told a press conference after launching the second segment of Aeromeet 2014 yesterday.
He pointed out that programmes such as the Rainforest World Music Festival are part of the state’s efforts to preserve traditional music, especially the Orang Ulu sape.
“We also have the orang-utan conservation programme and turtle conservation programme. For the turtle conservation programme, the release of turtles is an experience and definitely has to be for high-end tourists due to its limited accessibility.
“Sarawak is where adventure becomes a position with the elements of culture and nature so we do not want to claim to be the best shopping paradise but tourists can shop for native handicrafts, which is something a little bit different,” he said.
On Scandinavian tourist arrivals, Rashid said the number has been growing over the last three years by around 25 per cent annually.
“I believe Scandinavian visitors look for something that we have to offer given the growth. We offer nature for those who love the greenery and active outdoor activities.
“I also believe that most Scandinavians, Australians and Americans like active outdoor activities like canoeing in rivers and family activities where their children will learn about nature,” he said.
On Australian tourist arrivals, Rashid said it was “not big in number” at an average of around 5,000, but growing at an average of 5 per cent per annum.
“I think one of the challenges of marketing Sarawak is also about air accessibility. So they can go through two airport hubs to arrive in Sarawak, either through Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or Changi Airport.
“These are the two airport hubs that can connect Sarawak to the world. So we have no direct operation of aircraft from Australia to Sarawak,” he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board International Promotion Division (Americas/Europe/Oceania) director Datin Normasila Musa said Malaysia received more than 500,000 Australian visitors annually.
“Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia fly regular frequencies (from Australian cities) to Kuala Lumpur and also to Kota Kinabalu from Perth.”
She said with the increase of flight frequencies from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Darwin by Malaysia Airlines, the number of Australian visitors had grown positively.
Meanwhile, 55 outbound travel agents and media representatives from the Americas, Europe and Oceania attended Aeromeet 2014.
They were from Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, the United States, Italy, France, Spain, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Romania, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Participants attended a mini-travel mart and seminar with 30 local travel trade members to discuss the latest tourism products and services.
Last year, Malaysia recorded 377,214 tourists from the Americas, which was an increase of 4.4 per cent compared to 2012.
Tourist arrivals from Europe stood at around 1.2 million last year, which was an increase of 5.6 per cent, while Oceania arrivals rose by 2.9 per cent to 539,607.