KUCHING: The Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports is looking at temporary tour guides with Mandarin proficiency to accommodate the growing number of visitors from China.
Its minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said this was brought about by the about 20,000 air passengers, mostly from China, who came here in the first three months since the inaugural Kuching-Shenzhen flight at end of December last year.
“The ministry is seriously looking into this issue and is hoping to address it with contingency plan or else it would have an impact on our Chinese guests,” he told a press conference after chairing the Sarawak Tourism Steering Committee meeting here yesterday.
“Currently, we have about 200 licensed tour guides but only a few can speak Mandarin. So, maybe we can train some temporary Mandarin-speaking tour guides,” he said.
He added that Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and Forest Department, which manage national parks in Sarawak, would make arrangement to have Mandarin-speaking park guides or rangers in the frontline as well.
On issuing of Visa on Arrival (VoA) at the borders, Abdul Karim said they would be holding a dialogue with the state Immigration Department today (March 21) in the hope that procedural issues could be ironed out to make it easier for visitors who have entered Brunei in particular, to access Sarawak.
“We note that many foreigners who are visiting Brunei are also interested to continue their journey to Mulu and Niah caves, and we want to tap into this market.
“There are problems with procedures which need to be sorted out in order to facilitate the issuance of VoAs for these visitors to go in and out of Sarawak. The problem is minor, and can be resolved,” he added.
Abdul Karim also said more efforts would be put in to ensure that the state’s tourism industry remain competitive and continue to contribute to the economy.
“This year, Sarawak is targeting 5.25 million tourist arrivals. With enhanced air connectivity, especially by having more direct flights to international and domestic destinations, it will help to increase the number of visitors to Sarawak,” he said.
There are also a number of key events that help the tourism sector including Borneo Jazz Festival, Rainforest World Music Festival, Borneo Cultural Festival, Kuching Marathon, Kuching Food Festival, Borneo International Kite Festival, What About Kuching, Sarawak International Dragon Boat Race, Sarawak Regatta and also various sports tournaments.
Tourist arrivals into Sarawak in 2017 totalled 4.85 million, an increase of 4.2 per cent over 4.66 million in 2016.
Tourism receipts in 2017 totalled RM8.59 billion compared to RM8.37 billion in 2016.
The top three markets were Brunei (1.73 million), Indonesia (513,442) and the Philippines (68,380).
Sarawak, Abdul Karim, added also received half of the total amount of tourism tax collected from September to December 2017.
“We collected RM879,058 tourism tax during the period. And, as agreed by the Ministry of Finance, for every RM10 collected, RM5 goes back to the state. So Sarawak will receive RM439,529,” he added.
Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Snowdan Lawan, the ministry’s permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chairman Abdul Wahab Aziz and Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) Datuk Bandar Datuk Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julai were among those present at the meeting.