S’wak looking at ‘tourism bubble’ with selected countries – Karim


Abdul Karim (second left), accompanied by his ministry’s permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee and Sharzede (right), presents a book titled ‘Journal of Responsible Tourism Management’ Volume 1 Issue 2 to Amelia. – Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING (Sept 28): Sarawak will seek to set up a ‘tourism bubble’ with selected countries as economic activities slowly resume in this post Covid-19 vaccination period, said state Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

Abdul Karim also mentioned his ministry will soon be announcing domestic tourism packages to support the local tourism sector before further opening to tourists from outside.

“We will be more selective of the countries that we engage to restart tourism activities. Probably we will work with Singapore first and we see how it goes from there,” he said at a press conference after officiating an event celebrating ‘World Tourism Day 2021’ at a local hotel here yesterday.

He said setting up a ‘green zone’ or a ‘travel bubble’ for tourists from Singapore was reasonable as the country already had a very strict strategy in place towards Covid-19 containment.

“Perhaps for tourists coming in from Singapore, maybe our restrictions can be loosened a bit if they have already completed two doses of Covid-19 vaccination,” he said, adding another country considering to set up a travel bubble was Brunei.

He added more flights coming into the state, such as those from Penang and Johor, will be restored soon and it would indirectly contribute to revive the local tourism industry.

Commenting further, Abdul Karim said the community must now learn to co-exist with the Covid-19 coronavirus because the country had already undergone about one and a half-year of strict movement restrictions to contain the pandemic.

“The State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has repeatedly stressed that we must learn to live with the virus and the coronavirus might never be eliminated from the community.”

Observing the standard operating procedures introduced to curb Covid-19 infections is the key as the community lives under the new norm, he stressed.

Abdul Karim, who sits on the SDMC, said 99 per cent of the new Covid-19 cases in the state were patients classified under Category 1 or 2 with no or mild symptoms only.

“My personal opinion is that we are already at the late stage of the Covid-19 pandemic and the most important thing right now is we have one of the highest vaccinate rates in the country.”

However, he pointed out that greater details were needed on the Covid-19 death tolls in the state to determine whether a patient died of the coronavirus or old age, since most of the deceased were senior citizens.

When officiating at the ‘World Tourism Day 2021’ celebration earlier, Abdul Karim said his ministry had always worked closely with government agencies and other stakeholders to restart tourism activities in a responsible and sustainable manner.

“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic at the global scale is unprecedented and we have seen how much it has halted travel and tourism activities in Sarawak. With many of livelihoods and plans in jeopardy, it is time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism.”

He said promoting domestic and rural tourism via Sia Sitok packages was another initiative that exhibited the state’s resilience to uncertainty and resolve to build tourism better.

“Taking Sarawak a step closer to being added into the Unesco Creative Cities Network (UCCN) in gastronomy and also Niah National Park in the Unesco World Heritage are important milestones for Sarawak to prove our commitment to preserve our culture and heritage.”

Although the results were not out yet, Abdul Karim thanked all parties for driving Sarawak towards a suitable and inclusive tourism destination.

Titled ‘World Tourism Day 2021: Sarawak Commitment to Responsible Tourism’ with the theme ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth’, the event’s speakers included Business Events Sarawak chief executive officer (CEO) Amelia Roziman, Sarawak Tourism Board CEO Sharzede Salleh Askor, Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) Kuching vice chairman Professor Yeong Siew Wei and Sarawak Research Society chairman Associate Professor Hiram Ting.