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By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, June 22: Sarawak is losing a staggering RM3 billion in tourism receipts in the three months of Movement Control Order (MCO), revealed Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.
He pointed out that the tourism sector was one of the worst industries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is safe to say that we are losing about RM3 billion of tourism receipts in the last three months (February-April, 2020).
“That amount is based on averaging the RM11 billion we got for last year. So, it would be roughly about RM1 billion a month (in tourism receipts loss),” Abdul Karim told a news conference after chairing the “Post Covid-19 Tourism Sectors Dialogue Session – Sarawak Reopens for Tourism” held at Borneo Convention Centre, Kuching (BCCK) today.
When asked on the new target of tourist arrivals for this year, Abdul Karim said he would not be able to come up with specific statistics as the whole world is basically still being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic but expressed hope that Sarawak will get at least two million tourist arrivals, as opposed to the 5 million target set for this year.
“Our target for this year is five million. Of course we can’t expect five million. I will be very happy if we can get two million visitors.
“It’s difficult for me to answer that question. After we have made aggressive promotion last year, we were quite encouraged in January whereby there was a 17 per cent surge (in tourist arrivals) as compared to the corresponding month of 2019.
“After there was a surge in January, things just dropped, it was like a straight line. If I’m not mistaken, from February-May, there was a decline of 48.1 per cent,” he disclosed.
Abdul Karim also revealed that before Covd-19 pandemic, the average tourist arrivals to Sarawak was about 300,000, which translated to about RM1 billion in tourism receipts.
But in May, perhaps there were only 10,000 arrivals compared to 300,000 monthly arrivals before this. There was nothing we can do during MCO, as all airports and border customs immigration and quarantine complexes (CIQs) were closed,” he stressed.
Looking back, Abdul Karim said the whole tourism players were looking forward for a good start in January when the number of tourist arrivals increased by almost 17 per cent compared to the same period of last year.
“So, you can imagine all of us in the tourism industry, even the hoteliers, I believed that they were getting excited at that time. It was a good start. But unfortunately, February was the start of Covid-19 pandemic and in March we have the lockdown,” he said.
On post Covid-19 pandemic, Abdul Karim said Sarawak will look at domestic tourism and also to Singapore and Brunei once things improved.
“So now, it’s beginning to recover. (But), the price of (flight) tickets are still very expensive. But once things opened up, the issue of demand and supply will set in and the price (of flight tickets) will go down. So it would take a bit of time, perhaps one month or months, then (hopefully) everything will come back smoothly,” he said.
Abdul Karim said among the most hit sectors of the tourism industry were the hotels and resorts, travel agencies and culinaries.
“For the last three months, practically the tourism industry which include the hotels, travel and tours, the resorts have come to a standstill. A lot of people are suffering.
“That’s why I feel quite good to hear the problems that they are facing and apart from that, we also revealed some of the things that the government has done and some of the incentives we introduced to jump start the industry,” he said.
The dialogue session today was Abdul Karim’s first official meeting with the tourism players in which he received many proposals from them on how the industry could jump start. —DayakDaily.