Rangkaian Khidmat Awam Negeri Sarawak

(People, events, activities and programmes which make for a total quality-managed Sarawak Civil Service)

ISSN 1394-5726

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Sarawak Tourism Industry

Tourism is a fast expanding global industry which accounts for 12% of the world's GDP, 8% of the workforce and 8% of the world's total earning for the year 2000.

It is estimated that by 2010 at least 195 million international tourist arrivals will be received by countries in the East Asia and the Pacific regions.

This is a great opportunity for Sarawak to join in the bandwagon of global tourism success. Serious efforts must be taken to tap this huge potential in order to diversify the economic base from heavy dependence on traditional sectors.

Tourism in Sarawak

is a fairly recent development in the State. The Sarawak Ministry of Tourism was only formed on 1st February 1995 as one of the recommendations included in the Second Tourism Master Plan Study which was endorsed by the government in 1994. The Sarawak Tourism Board, the Ministry's promotion and marketing arm, was formed in June of the same year.

Prior to this, the tourism matters were administered by the State Tourism Development Committee (STDC) headed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

The tourism development in Sarawak was largely guided by the First Tourism Master Plan which was commissioned in 1978 by the Tourism Development Council. Basically, it was focused on infrastructure development and the set up of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The Kuching Waterfront, Sarawak Cultural Village, Holiday Inn Damai Resort, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are some of the products that came out of this Plan.

Next came the Second Tourism Master Plan. Among the tangible results are the set up of the State Tourism Coordinating Committee, Tourism Task Groups, key areas development, CAN (Culture, Adventure and Nature) tourism product development and tourism HRD, in addition to the formation of a full-fledged Tourism Ministry and the Sarawak Tourism Board.

Current Status

Compared to the total tourist arrivals in Malaysia, the number coming to Sarawak may not be as huge but it is picking up. Efforts by both the State and Federal governments to promote this sector have contributed much to the development of the industry.

In the 10-year period since 1990, the number of tourist arrivals has tripled to 3.5 million from 1,264,770. On a more current note, tourist arrivals as of May 2002 is 942,222 - an increase of 2.4% from 919,880 for the same period in 2001.

The industry has also recorded a marked increase in revenue for the 10-year period since 1990. In that year, revenue was RM638.4 million of which RM382.5 million was generated from foreign tourists arrivals. In 2000, the figure increased to RM6.28 billion of which RM2.84 billion was received from foreign tourists. At State level, the tourism industry's contribution to the State GDP has increased from 2% in 1999 to 7% in 2000.

Sarawak's Advantage

Sarawak's asset lies in its rich cultural heritage and the endless possibilities of adventure and nature related activities. These resources, if fully tapped on sound development approach could turn Sarawak into one of the world best tourist destinations in the future. But careful planning and the most appropriate strategies must be adopted to achieve this. How best to market and position Sarawak in the long list of favourite tourist destinations is a challenge given the fierce competition in the global market.

Sarawak's potentials in this industry lies in the following assets :

National Parks

A niche product that will appeal to eco-tourists. Sarawak has 15 gazetted national parks offering visitors the opportunity to explore and enjoy nature and adventure at its best. The Mulu National Park is perhaps the most famous as it has the world's biggest cave system earning itself the status of world natural heritage site. Definitely a trophy and flagship for the State's tourism industry.

Cultural Diversity

Sarawak is home to 27 ethnic groups with different backgrounds, lifestyles, beliefs and traditional practices. This, is in itself, a major attraction for tourists who favour different and diverse cultural experiences.

Nature and Adventure

Many events have been organised at State level to tap the potentials of local nature and adventure attractions. The unique and rare phenomenon of the Tidal Bore in Sri Aman is one good example. To develop these potentials, the government under the Ministry of Tourism and Sarawak Tourism Board have come up with a series of events to be promoted as international events. Among those listed in the Sarawak Calendar of Events include the Pesta Benak, Balleh Kapit Raft Safari, Sea Kayak International Marathon and the Sarawak Similajau Challenge.

Political Stability

Sarawak is probably one of the safest place on earth. With this assurance, tourists can enjoy their holidays in relative safety and comfort. In fact, the prevailing political stability and security has turned Sarawak into one of the best markets in tourism investments and travel destinations - an edge over neighbouring countries - and must be maintained at all cost.

Ecotourism - the trend to go

The world's demand that we practise sustainable tourism development has prompted the State to develop its ecotourism potentials as the new direction in tourism. This is clearly reflected in the Ministry of Tourism's vision to be "the world class ecotourism destination in the future".

The potential in ecotourism is promising. The State estimates that it will receive about 5 million visitors by 2007 from 3.4 million in 2001. This will translate to a revenue of about RM15 billion, a figure calculated based on the Annual Tourism Statistical Survey that each tourists would have spent about RM300 - RM400 per day on an average of 4.5 days length of stay (Eighth Malaysia Plan Report).

Issues and Challenges

However, this lucrative industry is not without challenges and issues that must be addressed to fully realise its potentials. Many factors have to be considered to develop a strategy that works. We must adapt to the changes brought on by the world's changing trends. The impact of globalisation, the use of ICT and computerisation in doing business means fierce competition for quality, speed and value-for-money products and services.

Another issue to tackle is the quality of people managing the industry. Knowledge is power. All players in this industry must be highly knowledgeable with a high level of expertise to efficiently and effectively manage tourism in the State.

The conservation of the natural environment is another crucial factor to consider. A balance must be striked in order not to over exploit or even destroy the environment in the pursuit of profits.

Air accessibility is probably one of the most difficult issues confronting the State tourism industry. We rely heavily on Malaysia Airlines as the main national carrier and currently, only the airports in Kuching and Sibu cater to international flights.

More facilities need to be developed to provide better access to and within the State.

The issue of product development must also be tackled wisely. New and quality products must be consistently maintained to ensure quality and value-for-money products and services for visitors. This needs to be complemented by highly know-ledgeable and well trained tour guides to service the mass market.

Current Development Programme

To enhance tourism development in the State, the government has planned out various development programme under the Eighth Malaysia Plan. A total sum of RM225 million - an increase from RM172 million given under the Seventh Malaysia Plan - was allocated to fund various development projects under these broad programmes:

- Product development includes Baruks at Redeem Centre Apar, Camp Sites at Lundu, Homestay Programmes and others.

- Human Resource Development for the industry

- Research and Surveys

- Events and Fests listed in the Sarawak Calendar of Events

- Promotional Activities by Sarawak Tourism Board

-Infrastructure Development including upgrading of services at the national parks as well as restoration works of historical buildings and monuments

Also in the pipeline are the R & R (Rest & Recreation) projects to provide convenient stopovers at strategic locations for long distance travellers all over the state.

In Miri, the Marine Park - a waterfront development will transform Miri into an international tourist destination. This is in line with the vision to turn Miri into a Resort City by 2005.

Plans are underway to change all signages along the Pan Borneo Highways to meet international standards. At least half a million ringgit is required to fund this project.

Key Development Strategies

The following key strategies will be adopted to achieve a high and sustainable growth in the tourism industry :

- A holistic and integrated development planning should be adopted in the planning process taking into consideration elements that will affect the tourism industry.

- The importance of marketing and promotion needs to be aggressively pursued to enhance Sarawak as the preferred destination. This will entail the proper knowledge and information so that appropriate direction and strategies can be adopted in its marketing and promotional efforts.

- The tourism products and services will continue to be broadened and diversified to meet the requirements of different markets.

- The upgrading of infrastructural facilities to provide better facilities for visitors and a provision for recreational and beautification programmes in major urban centres and tourists are being seriously considered. The quality and efficiency of the transportation service will also be continually upgraded to facilitate movements of tourists.

One key factor to look into is to focus on HRD. Training courses and seminars for frontliners such as tour operators, guides and others in the related industry will be enhanced to improve the standard of the industry. The government will look into the improvement to external and internal inaccessibility by continued negotia-tion with the national carrier, MAS and other international airlines to provide air service to and within the State.

To encourage sustainable development of this industry, proper management and operations of tourism products must be maintained. Efforts will be taken to efficiently manage products such as our national parks to ensure that the impact of tourism activities within the park will not cause negative impacts to the environment.

And last but not least, the involvement of all players in smart partnerships and close co-operation to determine success in the tourism industry. The public sector, the private sector and the community have their own role to play in order to meet common goals of this industry.

One thing is for sure, the tourism industry is big business - a fact that Sarawak is ready and equipped to take advantage of. According to YB Dato Sri Abang Haji Abdul Rahman Zohari bin Tun Abang Haji Openg, Sarawak's Minister of Tourism, we must make our tourism industry interesting and exciting. The State has declared next year as Visit Sarawak Year 2003 which was set off recently by a roadshow presenting local and international performers in concerts to be held through the State.

Many exciting international and local events have been planned by the government to celebrate Visit Sarawak Year 2003. Promotional efforts are underway to lure visitors to come to Sarawak.

Fortunately, we are blessed with an abundance of natural attractions that will set us off nicely in the increasing global fascination with eco-tourism. This will be a huge market, a fact that Sarawak should well take advantage of.


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