By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Jan 1: Efforts are ongoing to draw up special routes to improve air connectivity between Sarawak and foreign destinations, especially within Asia.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said his office was currently negotiating with AirAsia to make Sarawak a hub for the Asian region and build a low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT).
“We are also working in partnership with airline companies, including RBA (Royal Brunei Airlines), MAS (Malaysian Airlines) and Scoot from Singapore, to make way for tourists to visit Sarawak.
“I can assure you that the state government under my leadership will definitely enhance connectivity between Sarawak and destination within the hub,” he said at the launching of the `Visit Sarawak Campaign’ here last night.
The event was held at the Kuching Waterfront in conjunction with the New Year Countdown. Despite a downpour, thousands of Sarawakians jam-packed the area.
Among those present included Abang Johari’s wife, Datin Patinggi Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tun Tuanku Bujang, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Minister of Housing and Local Government Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian and Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin.
The Visit Sarawak Campaign is meant to enhance the visibility of the ‘Sarawak brand’ in the international and domestic markets, inculcate into local Sarawakians a ‘sense of belonging’ on tourism attractions in Sarawak, and to provide excellent tourism products and services and value for money experiences.
Through integrated marketing strategies and a concerted campaign to promote local tourism products and a ‘call-for-action’ content by industry players, the campaign hopes to attract five million visitor arrivals to Sarawak this year, with an estimated tourism receipt of RM8.79 billion.
Abang Johari said the state government would continue to invest in the tourism sector, including improving infrastructures like the new Museum Campus, facilities at Fort Margherita as well as the comprehensive heritage trail from the Kuching Waterfront right up to the Malay heritage area and Padungan.
In addition, the government would also upgrade facilities in its national parks, including those in Semenggok, Bako National Park and Niah Caves.
“Sarawak is lucky to have good infrastructure for us to enhance our economic sector and services sector that are essential in our transformation programme, including the rural areas, which many tourists are interested to go to experience our cultures and learn what we have,” he told those present.
For this reason, Abang Johari pointed out the importance of developing and upgrading the coastal road despite some hurdles from the federal government. Hence, the state government would take over the development of infrastructure in the state.
“With God’s blessings, myself together with colleagues have a way to raise money, especially now that we can enforce five per cent sales tax on petroleum products for export. This money will go back to the people, and we will upgrade all the facilities that deserved to be given to the people,” he emphasised.
On the campaign, he congratulated the tourism ministry under the leadership of Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah and his team for being able to create awareness that there is a must-visit place called Sarawak.
“The tagline ‘More to Discover’ is most fitting because many have not discovered Sarawak. When we introduce Sarawak to the world and with the availability of connectivity, we are able to position ourselves.
“If James Brooke, a westerner can discover Sarawak, I am sure many more westerners want to discover Sarawak, where they will fall in love with the state. Even my friends from China want to charter flights to come to Sarawak,” he said.
Other than this campaign, he reiterated that the state government would set up a trade office in Singapore, Pontianak (linking to Jakarta), and Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei to promote Sarawak within Asia.
“We are now working with AirAsia to connect Kuching with Jakarta and Bandung, and I am sure people will come over to Sarawak to our trade office.
“With this plan, Miri will also be upgraded so that Sarawak will have two entry points, one in Kuching and one in Miri, to transit to other destinations,” he added.
The launch of the Visit Sarawak Campaign was marked by a stunning 3D video mapping projection on the new State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Complex.
Other highlights leading up to the countdown moment included performances by top Malaysian artistes, dance performance, musical fountain show and lighting up of the Darul Hana Bridge.
The night wrapped up with a dazzling fireworks display as onlookers cheered the new year in. — DayakDaily