KUCHING: Sarawak has to keep moving forward in developing the tourism industry to sustain its economy because the state cannot cut its forests forever to extract timber and set up oil palm plantations to bring in revenue, Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said.
“As tourism has been a major contributor to the economy of many countries, the state has to develop it to make it a mainstay of our state’s economy,” he said at the grand opening of the Marian Boutique Lodging House here yesterday, adding the state has to find other ways to ensure its economy is sustainable.
His text of his speech was read by Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youths and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.
The Chief Minister also thanked all local entrepreneurs who have been trying to give new life and purpose to the old buildings like what the management of Marian Boutique Lodging House was doing. He noted that it has become a trend in the old part of Kuching for old buildings to be repurposed into eating places and accommodation.
“This is a good thing to happen here as this allows the historical heritage of Kuching to be preserved, at the same time giving economic benefits to the owners of these buildings of the colonial era. Of course, you have to comply with all the safety requirements of agencies like Bomba (Fire and Rescue Department) to ensure that the place, some of which were built in the late 1800s, is safe and sound for your guests.
“With everything considered, I know it’s not cheap to repurpose old buildings like this, with costs running into millions of ringgit,” he said.
Abang Johari went on to congratulate the management of Marian Boutigue Lodging House for having the courage and confidence to spend so much to realise the project. He said the effort by the management was a brave move and very much in line with the state government’s agenda of uplifting the status of the state tourism industry, especially in and around Kuching.
He noted that the success of repurposing other places like Siniawan town into night time eating places should give investors the courage and conviction that such a project has the potential to be successful.
He said hotels alone, however, would not bring in the tourists, adding that there has got to be some attractions that would make people love and like to come to Kuching.
“I believe we are not lacking in these as we have interesting places like our old Sarawak Museum, to which is being added the new Sarawak Museum Campus, the ever-popular Semenggok Wildlife Sanctuary, Kubah and Bako national parks, the upcoming Kuching Golden Bridge, and many more,” he said.
Abang Johari pointed out that healthcare tourism has also become an important feature of Kuching’s economy now that the city has four private hospitals.
He urged tourism players not to forget about the state’s efforts to make Kuching a favourite conference place for people from all over the world.
He said the Sarawak Conventions Bureau has been doing a good job in bidding for conferences to be held in Kuching, especially at the BCCK.
Also present were Anglican Bishop of Kuching Datuk the Right Reverend Bolly Lapok, Abdul Karim’s wife Datin Zuraini Abdul Jabbar and Marian Boutique Lodging House director Rosemarie Wong-Jabu and state assemblyman for Layar Gerald Rentap Jabu.