Minister: Pandemic shrinks tourist arrivals by 65 percent this year

Karim (middle) activating a gimmick during the launching ceremony of PANDei ePelancongan Course at Imperial Hotel.

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By Ling Hui

KUCHING, Nov 5: The Covid-19 pandemic has cut down the number of tourists visiting Sarawak this year by 65 percent.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said tourist arrivals in Sarawak from January to September 2020 were only about 1.15 million visitors.

“This is a very, very big drop compared to the previous years. It is a drop of about 65 percent compared to the same period last year.

“The value of tourism receipts from January to September this year is RM2.78 million. Due to the pandemic, Sarawak is projecting only about 1.4 million tourists in 2020.

“Even though we initially tried to put it at 2 million but I think we have to be practical since we closed our borders so we cannot expect people to come in,” he said.

Adding on, Abdul Karim says to be appreciative if this conservative figure of 1.4 million projection could be reached by his ministry after witnessing the month-to-month tourist arrivals’ data himself.

He also compared this year with other years when Sarawak could have easily reached 4.5 to 4.6 million visitors in a year.

“In other years, we targetted 5 million (visitors) and we would be able to reach 4.5 or 4.6 million (visitors) but this year we are very conservative.

“We are only looking at 1.4 million (visitors). If we could reach this conservative figure of 1.4 million visitors, we would be very happy,” he said when attending the launching ceremony of PANDei ePelancongan Course at Imperial Hotel today.

Nonetheless, the Youth and Sports Minister described the Covid-19 outbreak as a ‘blessing in disguise’ as a difficult situation to travel overseas has led to more local tourism among Sarawakians.

He said the intrastate tourism campaign “Sia Sitok Sarawak” that was launched in July 2020 has up to now generated about RM700,000 in sales in only about three months’ time and the response was good.

Confident that the potential of local tourism is still growing as Sarawakians are now visiting “their own backyards” instead of thinking to fly to China, Australia, or Europe, Abdul Karim said the current pandemic crisis is truly an opportunity to rethink Sarawak’s tourism for the future.-DayakDaily