‘More critical for state tourism to develop quality, rather than quantity’

Sarawak Tourism Federation president Philip Yong

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KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Federation president Philip Yong says it is more important for the state to have quality rather than quantity in terms of tourism products.

Citing Mulu National Park, he said Sarawak does have enough tourism products to attract foreigners.

The main problem for Sarawak tourism, however, has been the issue of connectivity or accessibility, which he considered as sufficient but could be enhanced.

For air connectivity, he said Sarawak has been depending on Malaysia Airlines which has in the past re-timed its flights without even notifying the state.

“That is not much we can do. So we need partners in the government to sink their teeth into them (MAS),” said Yong during the “Creating Experiences and Exceeding Expectations for Sarawak, where Adventure lives” discussion session at the 4th Sarawak Business and Investment Summit event themed “Digitising Sarawak, Amplifying Growth” at a local hotel here today.

Yong and Datuk Dr Au Yong Kien Hoe, managing director and CEO of Normah Medical Specialist Centre were two of the panelists for the session.

In 2016, tourism contributed close to RM8.4 billion (or 7.9 per cent) of Sarawak’s GDP.

However, the industry’s contribution to state GDP has been on a declining trend since 2014.

Although visitor numbers increased by 3.2 per cent over 2015, the average spend per visitor dropped from RM2,545 to RM2,236.

The session moderated by Sarawak Tourism Board acting CEO Mary Wan Mering looked into several issues including reversing the decline in average spend per visitor and consequently, total tourism receipts; new ways to maximise tourism’s potential and its contribution to Sarawak’s GDP; opportunities to take advantage of the digital revolution to spur tourism such as 3D tourism; extracting the niches to boost tourism receipts such as medical tourism and balancing the need for sustainability versus the desire to attract more visitors especially the higher spenders.