Sarawak’s medical tourism to soar again with trade and tourism office in Pontianak

Abdul Karim (fourth right) sounds the horn to flag-off the bike expedition at the Sarawak Education Department here today (Aug 12, 2022).

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By Nur Ashikin Louis

KUCHING, Aug 12: Sarawak, as one of the most sought after destinations for medical tourism, is expected to increase in popularity with the setting up of a trade and tourism office in Pontianak, Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Sarawak Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said back in 2019, there were 47,000 foreign patients seeking medical treatment in Sarawak with 41,000 being Indonesians.

He noted that the closing of the Sarawak-Kalimantan border during the Covid-19 pandemic had forced many private bus companies to close down, thus leading to the lack of transportation services for the people of Kalimantan to seek medical services in Sarawak.

“Since our borders have just reopened (on April 1), it will take a little bit of time for the bus companies to restart again.

“Those who have that business outlook will not leave out this opportunity. Definitely they will restart the bus services, the coaches and whatever the facilities they have done before,” he told reporters during a bike expedition flag-off ceremony in conjunction with State-Level Teacher’s Day 2022 celebration at the Sarawak Education Department here today.

Asked if the Sarawak government would assist in the matter, Abdul Karim said most of the transportation services from Kuching to Pontianak were initiated by private companies.

On the State government’s side, it will set up a trade and tourism office in Pontianak similar to the Sarawak Trade and Tourism Office in Singapore (STATOS) first before it can look into providing better facilities for the cross-border movement.

“We are in the planning process to set up the office (in Pontianak). The office will facilitate the private sector to have more business on both sides (Sarawak and Indonesia),” he added.

The Damri counter at the Kuching Sentral Bus Terminal.

A check by DayakDaily at the Kuching Sentral Bus Terminal yesterday (Aug 11) found that there was only one company which provides bus services from Kuching to Pontianak, namely Damri – an Indonesian state-owned bus operator.

Several bus companies have yet to start their operations pending cross-border permit approval. — DayakDaily