Sarawak negotiating with international airlines to meet connectivity demands

Abdul Karim (centre) speaks to reporters.

KUCHING, Aug 19: The Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports is hoping for fruitful negotiations with several airline companies as the number of tourists and visitors coming into Sarawak is getting higher and present air connectivity is struggling to meet demands.

Its minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the success of this year’s Visit Sarawak campaign has been overwhelming, with many more international events scheduled to be held in the state this year.

Due to this, he said, present air connectivity in the state might not be able to cope with the increasing number of visitors and tourists coming to the state.


He revealed that at the moment the state government is negotiating with several international airline players to help improve air connectivity, especially with international destinations, but could not divulge more details as nothing has been penned yet.

“We are still working it out, we cannot mention or go overboard because we have not penned those contracts yet, but we are really working out with quite a number of airlines from Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and China.

“It will be announced as it goes. I’m quite excited about it also,” he told reporters during a press conference here this morning.

Abdul Karim revealed that from January to July this year, the number of visitors and tourists coming to Sarawak was 432,575, which is a 13.75 per cent increase compared to last year over the same period which is 381,889.

If air connectivity into the state improves, he said, the number of tourists and visitors coming in would definitely increase, and this would definitely benefit the state in terms of economic spin-offs.

In relation to this, Abdul Karim said with the many events being organised in the state this year, he saw an increasing number of Sarawakians also participating as well as organising side events.

This proved that the spin-offs from the various international events organised in the state could really benefit the state economically.

“Many event organisers from West Malaysia come to Sarawak because it is hard for them to make money there, because tourism there does not seem to be moving,” he said.

Meanwhile, Abdul Karim said his aim for Sarawak is for the cities in the state to become cities of culture and heritage, and his ministry will be highlighting culture and heritage when marketing Sarawak as a tourism destination.

“I always mention I don’t want to see Sarawak as a commercial city, where people just go shopping. If you want to go shopping you go to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, but leave Kuching to be a centre for arts and culture. That’s why we have the new museum; in the whole Southeast Asia it’s the second largest museum.

“We are trying to promote Sarawak as a city which has got life and heritage. We should be proud that we have heritage and culture, and apart from that the kind of tourists we have will be the quality ones who are able to appreciate all these and get their money’s worth when visiting Sarawak,” he said. — DayakDaily