Safety standards at Bako National Park must improve — Abdul Karim

Abdul Karim (second left) at the town hall session. Also seen (from left) are STB chief executive officer Sharzede Salleh Askor, tourism permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee, STF president Audrey Wan Ulok.

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By Dorcas Ting

KUCHING, Oct 4: The state government is looking to improve safety measures and infrastructures at the Bako National Park, which remains a top tourist destination in Sarawak.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said this included safety of passengers using boats to the park, which is quite lacking among the boat operators.

“Bako National Park is one of the most popular spot among tourists, with not less than 150 arrivals per day. In this regards, the ministry is looking to improve the safety measure of the boats used to ferry tourists from the jetty to the park.

“However, there are around 70 boat operators that ferry tourists to Bako National Park but some of these operators do not take safety precaution. Some boats are not equipped with life jackets and some are overloaded with passengers,” he said at a town hall meeting with the state tourism players here today.

As Bako National Park is under the care of Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), Abdul Karim said the tourism ministry will consider taking over management of the park if SFC could not ensure safety of the tourists.

“We do not want to wait till accident happens and finger-pointing started. We do not want safety of passengers to be compromised, especially the foreigners,” he said.

Abdul Karim said his ministry is also looking to ensure that top tourist attractions across the state will be equipped with Internet connectivity.

On another note, he expressed content that the state has attracted 2.9 million tourist arrival as in August this year, an increase of 31 per cent when compared to the same period last year.

This amid the declining tourism industry suffered globally this year, he said.

“There is an increase from domestic arrival, as well as from Singapore. However, tourist arrival from China is falling. This may be due to the cancellation of direct flights between China and Sarawak,” he continued.

Abdul Karim said tourists like to travel to Sarawak to experience the culture, adventure, nature, food and festivals.

The minister was content with the commitment of the tourism industry players to bring the sector to new heights.

“A lot of feedback and shortcoming were raised by industry players during the session and we are happy that everyone is committed to wanting to see Sarawak as a good destination for tourists all over the world,” he said.

The town hall session also involved representatives from Sarawak Tourism Board, Sarawak Tourism Federation, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents, Sarawak Tourist Guides Association, Malaysian Association of Hotels, homestay business owners, local councils and SFC among others. — DayakDaily