KUCHING: A total of 4.85 million visitors came to Sarawak last year – an increase of 4.2 per cent compared to 2016 – bringing in an estimated tourist receipt of RM8.59 billion.
Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah in his ministry’s winding-up speech yesterday revealed that the top five tourist arrivals were from Brunei Darussalam (1.73 million), Indonesia (513,442), the Philippines (68,380), Singapore (42,177) and China (38,204).
“For January to May this year, the visitor arrival figure was 1,750,640. The figures also indicate a positive increase in tourist arrivals from China and Singapore,” he said.
For Chinese tourists, he said the figure for the first five months of this year is 19,641 arrivals, which he said was an ‘encouraging’ increase of 20.22 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2017.
He attributed the rise to the Kuching-Shenzhen direct flight which commenced in December last year.
As for Singapore, total arrivals to Sarawak for January to May this year rose by 15.8 per cent to 17,856 compared to the same period in 2017.
“Based on the performance and trend of the past few months in terms of Sarawak visitor arrivals and national-tourist arrivals for 2018, my ministry is targeting 4.5 million visitor arrivals and expecting RM8.05 billion in tourism receipts,” he added.
To ensure a sustained growth of visitors’ arrivals, Abdul Karim said his ministry is actively embarking on a ‘Visit Sarawak’ campaign which will be launched at the end of this year.
“My ministry will continue to work closely with all relevant stakeholders to deliver our mission of positioning Sarawak as a premier tourism destination,” he said.
Touching on the tourism tax, the minister said a total of RM439,731 was collected between September and December last year.
He added the ministry is currently working closely with the federal Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to determine how to utilise the given allocation to implement tourism-related programmes and initiatives in Sarawak.
He further revealed that a total of RM12.5 million has been allocated to the ministry for the next three years to boost and transform Sarawak’s tourism landscape by leveraging on the emerging digital technology.
“The ministry has initiated to embrace and redevelop our tourism web portal with enhanced and interactive content. This includes developing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technology for tourism hotspots in the state starting with the Old Kuching Heritage area, in time for Visit Sarawak campaign to be launch at the end of the year,” he added.
On another note, Abdul Karim pointed out that the state’s national parks are still the most preferred destinations for domestic and foreign eco-tourists due to their wildlife attraction, interesting nature activity, as well as beautiful and unique landscape.
He disclosed that Sarawak currently has a total of 56 national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.
As of May 2018, Abdul Karim said the total visitor arrivals to all the national parks was 186,486, comprising 73 per cent domestic visitors and 27 per cent foreign. The number of foreign visitors is up 18.33 per cent compared to last year.
Total revenue generated by these visitors amount to RM2.18 million, which is an increase of 0.88 per cent from last year.
“National parks that recorded the highest number of visitors as of May 2018 are Semenggoh Wildlife Centre (28,572), Bako National Park (10,358), Santubong National Park (9,367) Niah National Park (8,636), Gunung Mulu National Park (7,781) and Lambir Hills National Park (4,485).”
According to the minister, the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) in 2017 brought in a total of 89 business events to Sarawak (60 bid wins and 29 bids supported).
“The 89 business events represent close to 34,000 delegates and 97,000 delegate days, translating to approximately RM107 million in direct delegate expenditure to Sarawak. This revenue returns to Sarawak, to feed downstream and upstream tourism businesses in sustaining flight demands, accommodation, event venues, food and beverage outlets, and others,” he said.