Thursday, January 27

‘National parks need to be under Ministry of Tourism’

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Acea president Datuk Stanley Ling (second right) presenting Abdul Karim (centre) with a token of appreciation during the conclusion of the Malaysia-Thailand business networking and sharing forum. Also seen are the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Thailand to Malaysia Damrong Kraikruan (second left), Wee (left) and forum moderator and political secretary to the Chief Minister, Michael Tiang Ming Tee (right).

KUCHING: There is a need for the state’s national parks to be placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports.

Speaking at the Malaysia-Thailand business networking and sharing forum at Hilton Kuching yesterday, its minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said that he planned to promote Sarawak as far as possible in order to bring in more tourists by bringing up the standards of all tourist facilities.

“Hotels must be there, and parks must be up to standard. Unfortunately, that part (national parks) is not very satisfactory yet, and I will look very seriously into it.

“I may have to look into taking away the park side from Forestry and bring it into Tourism Ministry because I believe their role (Forestry) is to conserve and preserve and not promote.

“On the other hand, we (Ministry of Tourism) love our heritage; we want to conserve them and preserve them but also promote them. That’s why I want this to be parked under us.

“Sabah has done this, and their parks are very popular,” he emphasised.

However, when prompted for clarification, Abdul Karim said not all national parks would be involved, stating only Mulu, Niah and Bako national parks would need to be under his ministry.

“This will need cabinet approval, but the paper is more or less ready and I will work hard on it,” he added.

He also said his ministry was currently reviewing proposals from local companies for ‘easy applications’ to enable tourists to quickly obtain information on hotels, eateries and places of interest.

He was responding to a point raised by forum speaker Eddie Wee Teck Tong, who is also the Asean-China Entrepreneurs Association (Acea) vice-president and managing director of Fame International Group, that the state should capitalise on the needs of tourists by creating its own tourism mobile application.

“The primary goal of tourists is to have an enjoyable holiday experience, so we need to provide them with sufficient facilities, hospitality and convenience.

“When they go for holiday, they need a source of information on where to eat, what events and activities are available, places of interest, what accommodations are available and information on navigation,” he said.

Wee also said the Tourism Ministry needed to have greater online presence in order to draw the interest of tourists to venture into the state.

“We need to maximise our exposure in the buying phase of consumer behaviour in tourists. This means attracting people using social media and also creating platforms where previous tourists can share their reviews of their experience of their Sarawak holiday – which will hopefully help attract other tourists.”

He pointed out that tourists no longer relied on advertising alone but rather on the experiences of others shared online.

“I think that we can all agree that nowadays, before going on holiday, we read all the reviews and comments before deciding to go.”

Agreeing with this, Abdul Karim said: “Gone are the days where people are planning their holidays with travel agents. Nowadays, people are planning their own holidays online, this is the trend now, especially for young professionals.

“This is exactly why digital connectivity in our state and participation by our businesses and industries is so important, this is why our right honourable chief minister is embarking on this digital economy initiative,” concluded Abdul Karim.