Tourist arrivals in Sarawak drop 92 pct in first nine months of 2021, but numbers expected to rebound next year

Seen are Ting (seated centre), flanked by Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chairman Dennis Ngau (on Ting's right) and permanent secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Hii Chang Kee (second right), STB chief executive officer Sharzede Salleh Askor (right) and Miri Division Resident Mohd Abdul Aziz Yusoff (on Dennis's right) attending the meeting.

By Jaythaleela K

MIRI, Nov 4: Travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have drastically affected the global tourism industry but many experts continue to expect the sector to show stronger signs of recovery next year and in 2023.

According to Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Datuk Sebastian Ting Chiew Yew, visitor arrivals in Sarawak have dropped 74 per cent, from 4,662,419 in 2019 to 1,199,872 in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Over the same period, tourism receipts declined 75 per cent to just RM 2.88 billion in 2020 which is an estimated total loss of RM8.69 billion.

“From January to September of this year (2021), visitor arrivals plunged 92.02 per cent to 92,174 as compared to the corresponding period in 2020. Tourism receipts also dropped 92.29 per cent to RM213.98 million as compared to the corresponding period in 2020,” Ting said today after chairing a Sarawak Tourism Coordination Committee (STCC) meeting (Bil. 3/2021) here.

“The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Barometer (Volume 19, Issue 5) September 2021 indicated that international tourism showed a slight recovery in June and July 2021 driven by border reopenings, relaxation of travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers, coupled with progress made in easing the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, lifting of consumer confidence and gradual return of safe mobility,” Ting pointed out.

Looking ahead, he added, most experts continue to expect a rebound next year (2022), driven by unleashed pent-up demand, mostly during the second and third quarter of 2022.

“Experts foresee growing demand for open-air and nature-based tourism activities, while domestic tourism and “slow travel” experiences are slowly gaining increasing interest,” he said.

Looking further ahead, most experts expect a greater rebound in 2023 and see a return of international arrivals to 2019 level in 2024 or later, he added.

Ting disclosed the Sarawak government is doing all it can to ensure that the tourism industry survives this crisis and retains its experienced players and staff by introducing the Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) 1.0 – 7.0 stimulus packages amounting to a total of RM 5.3 billion.

He further revealed a total of RM1,679,300 was allocated through BKSS 3.0 and BKSS 6.0 to Sarawak tourism industry players which included 164 licensed tour guides and 119 park guides, 161 licensed travel agents, 82 licensed tourist vehicle drivers, 558 licensed homestay operators and 10 licensed Sarawak Malaysia My Second Home (SMM2H) agents.

“BKSS 7.0 was introduced to benefit our small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) who shall receive RM10,000 each while micro-enterprises will receive RM3,000 each,” Ting added. — DayakDaily