SIBU: Borneo Cultural Festival concluded on Saturday in all the traditional pomp and ceremony, and the success of this annual affair has again drawn attention to the need to further boost the town’s tourism growth.
The Federal Government has been urged to look into the request from the people of Sibu for better air connectivity.
Residents and the business fraternity have appealed that the Sibu-Singapore sector be created, and that more airlines with bigger aircraft such as Boeing can serve the Sibu-Kota Kinabalu sector.
They also hope that the expensive fare structure can be revised, too.
Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh expressed his disappointment on the matter at the grand finale of the festival, noting that the problems had hampered the growth of the town’s tourism.
“Every year during this time, people of Sibu look forward to this festival and we are also expecting the event to be organised on a larger scale, drawing bigger crowd.
“I notice that many people travel here from nearby towns and districts but I do not see many foreigners joining our festival,” he added.
He said in order to attract foreign tourists, there was a need to overcome two “obstacles.”
“One of the obstacles is air connectivity and the other is the expensive fare that we have to pay.
“Air link and air accessibility with the outside world even with our neighbouring state Sabah, and our neighbouring country Singapore, leave much to be desired,” he said.
Wong said there was a need to have more flights for the Sibu-Kota Kinabalu sector which is currently served by MasWing through its smaller ATR aircraft.
He said there should be an open-air policy as Sibu-KK sector was still being classified as rural air service thus disallowing other airline from operating the same route.
“This is very unfair as Sibu is the gateway to the central region and the town itself has over 260,000 population.
“We are, of course, the commercial centre of the central region.
“We have colleges, university, international school, business organisation, the halal hub in Tanjung Manis and the booming heavy industry which depends on Sibu as the entry point,” he said.
The fare structure, he said, was also a drawback to the development of the tourism industry.
On the festival, he said it had helped promote social solidarity and cohesion with the participation of the Chinese, Dayak and Malay-Melanau communities.
Sibu Municipal Council chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King said this year’s festival was a “mega” success that echoed to the Visit Sibu Year 2017 campaign.
Next year’s Borneo Cultural Festival will be held from July 19 to 28.