Domestic tourism statistics raise eyebrows at briefing

The slide presented by Mohd Uzir which raised a few eyebrows during a briefing on Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) to tourism industry players in Sarawak at a hotel here today.

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KUCHING: Has Sri Aman surpassed Miri and Sibu in terms of popularity among domestic visitors?

Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin, the Chief Statistician of Department of Statistics Malaysia presented a slide at the “Tourism Satellite Accounting (TSA) to Tourism Industry Players in Sarawak” briefing at a local hotel today that showed Sarawak with the figure of 16.3 million visitors, was among the top five most visited states by domestic visitors after Selangor (24 million), Perak (16.8 million), Kuala Lumpur 16.8 million and Sabah 16.5 million.

The slide also showed the top five most visited destinations in Sarawak in 2016 (as shown above).

According to Mohd Uzir’s analysis, Kuching ranked first, followed by Bintulu, Sri Aman, Miri and Sarikei.

Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin briefs tourism industry players in Sarawak.

That particular piece of information became a talking point for Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah who not only used it as an example in his speech, he also brought it up during the press conference to show that when basic data collection was not accurate, it might lead to questionable conclusions or outcomes.

“TSA is already in place, but we want to see all industry players involved,” said Abdul Karim.

He then brought up the case of Sri Aman being the third most popular domestic destination for visitors in 2016, above Miri, with Sibu totally out of the top five.

“I told Datuk Ik (Pahon, the permanent secretary of the Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Ministry), probably the hotels in Sri Aman, they disclosed how many people were staying in while those in Miri, did not want to share the statistics.

Responding to a reporter, he acknowledged the possibility that some accommodation providers may not want to reveal their occupancy rates to hide their revenue flow.

“We never know. If you want to declare 80 per cent occupancy (for hoteliers), and (yet) the tax you pay is very small…that means it might arouse suspicion. It might be like that, Sibu and Miri might be like that,” said Abdul Karim at a press conference after the briefing by Mohd Uzir.

Mohd Uzir explained that those participating in the survey were required to fill up a questionnaire comprising 30 to 45 questions which were linked.

“So we know if they are under reporting; we have the way to probe. So the (tourism) industry (players) have to play their part,” he said, responding to a reporter’s question on the accuracy of the statistics used in his briefing.

Abdul Karim assured the media that the statistics collected were accurate.

“It is just that sometimes, the players down there might not be cooperating or giving the correct data,” said Abdul Karim.

He cited a situation where a person conducting a survey might ask certain questions which interviewees might be reluctant to answer.

Lee, Abdul Karim and Snowdan at the press conference after the TSA briefing.

“If they ask you how much is your income, even if you are getting RM10,000 a month, you say ‘Aiya, cukup makan’. That is always the case, human nature is like that,” said Abdul Karim.

He thus called on tourism industry players to be cooperative so that the end results of the TSA may be accurate and reflects the real situation.

Abdul Karim however, also raised another query.

“It (conclusions deriving from statistical analysis) cannot be 100 per cent perfect. Even in the total number of domestic tourists, Perak seems to be exceeding us. I don’t know how they are assessing Perak. At least we have an entry point which is immigration. Perak doesn’t have, Melaka, too, So how do they calculate?”

Also present at the press conference and the briefing were Tourism Assistant Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin, Sports and Youth Assistant Minister Datuk Snowdan Lawan and Philip Yong, president of Sarawak Tourism Federation.