By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, June 22: Knock down flat by Covid-19 pandemic this year, the State tourism ministry today vowed to come up strong next year.
Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister admitted that it was a tough war to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic which has resulted in major tourism events in Sarawak such as the renowned Rainforest World Music Festival and hosts of other major events to be cancelled this year.
“This year we already made our decision whereby we will postpone it (Rainforest World Music Festival) for this year but we will come up very strongly next year.
“It’s not just the Rainforest World Music Festival but also other major events such as the Spartan Race, Marathon and Jazz Music Festival will also be cancelled,” he 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) here today.
On a related issue, Abdul Karim said, his ministry had assisted the tourism players during the MCO which was triggered by Covid-19 pandemic which struck Sarawak hardest from February-April.
“We did get feedbacks from them (tourism players), the suffering which they are facing. That’s why we have come up with some incentives and also the feedback we got from them we bring up to the state government whereby the government have come up with various incentives.
“Among them, the assistance for park and tourist guides and boat operators. This proposal (to assist them) came up from the industry players whereby I brought it up to the Chief Minister and he endorsed it straight away,” he said.
The Asajaya lawmaker also disclosed that the tourism industry also benefited from the state government’s various other incentives such as the reduced utilities tariffs during the MCO period.
“If we gathered all of them, of course, there are so many miseries that we would be hearing. But all industries are facing some kinds of problems here and there. And apart from the incentives that we have come up with for the tourism players, the government also got its own (incentives) which somehow benefit the tourism industry.
“Take for example, the discount in electricity, those in the tourism industry and who have offices will also benefit. So are those in the homestay industry,” he said.
Other initiatives provided by the tourism ministry include waver of hotel licences and initiating aggressive promotions both at domestic and international levels.
“That’s why when we get the feedback from them, we will be negotiating with agencies which are also doing tourism, take for example SEDC which is looking after Sarawak Cultural Village. I don’t think we should have that kind of rate since we are trying to promote people from coming in, both domestically or foreigners.
“There must be a lot of things to offer to entice them because it’s not only about us offering promotions. Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam are also coming with so many kinds of promotions. So if their promotions are so much better, then people will tend to go there,” he said, adding that the State would promote special tourism incentives in the next six months.
Meanwhile, Abdul Karim did not foresee foreigners could come visiting the country yet but hoped that domestic tourism will pick up soon.
“We will give more focus to domestic as well as two of our neighbouring countries such as Brunei and Singapore.
“But once things are getting better, then we will open up for Indonesia for medical tourism, a lot of them are Indonesians. Once you stop them from coming in, our private hospitals will be suffering also because a lot of their patients come from Indonesia,” he added. —DayakDaily.