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
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
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.
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
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 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 :
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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
More facilities need to be developed to provide better access to and within
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
- 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
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
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
urban centres and tourists are being seriously considered. The quality and
efficiency of the transportation service will also be continually upgraded
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
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
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.