By Adrian Lim
KUCHING, Mar 12: The Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture (MTAC) will be focusing on efforts to promote domestic tourism in view of the declining number of foreign tourists due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah believed that domestic tourists – which make up the most number of travellers to Sarawak – will still be the engine of growth for the tourism sector in Sarawak.
“My ministry and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) have responded to the current situation by a quick review of our marketing strategies which include turning our promotional and marketing initiatives to domestic tourism.
“It is to encourage more domestic tourists from West Malaysia, Sabah and local Sarawakians to choose Sarawak as a preferred holiday destination.
“We are very optimistic of the potential of domestic tourism for Sarawak,” he said in a press conference after meeting tourism industry players during Sarawak tourism steering committee meeting between his ministry and industry players at a hotel here.
Abdul Karim observed that domestic tourists who have visited Sarawak from Peninsula Malaysia recorded an increase of 16 per cent to 419,776 visitors in January this year as compared to 361,334 visitors in January 2019.
In spite of that, he noted the number of visitors declined by 7.5 per cent to 311,168 visitors in February 2020 from 336,488 in February 2019.
He revealed that Chinese tourists made up just 2 to 3 per cent of the total percentage of tourist arrivals to Sarawak in the last few years.
Thus, Abdul Karim revealed that his ministry will be working with other agencies such as Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), Sarawak Travel Federation (STF), travel agents and tour operators to promote domestic travels.
Hence, Abdul Karim believed that the lower number of Chinese tourists as a result of Covid-19 will not have a big impact on the tourism sector in Sarawak.
On another note, he disclosed that major tourism events which have been planned will still be carried out despite Covid-19.
Abdul Karim outlined that most of the tourism events such as the 2020 Spartan Race Sarawak to be held next month, Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in July, International Dragon Boat race in October and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) conference in November will still be held as planned.
Nonetheless, he stated that the prestigious 35th Chief Minister’s Cup (I) International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour Junior had been postponed to July. It was originally planned to be held in Kuching in April.
Other than that, Abdul Karim said most of the tourism events will be organised as scheduled.
He observed that the state disaster management committee will also be constantly reviewing countries that are affected by Covid-19.
Abdul Karim also noted that the state government would also be gradually relaxing the entry of foreigners from countries which are cleared of Covid-19.
Those include lifting the entry ban for people from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan from the refusal list.
“Be rest assured that Sarawak Government will continue to monitor the situation in a stringent manner so as to ensure that Sarawak continue to be a safe destination for both international and domestic visitors,” he asserted.—DayakDaily