MIRI: Music, songs and dances have become major tourism draw for Sarawak, with locally-organised musical festivals garnering rapidly-increasing interest from abroad and in the process generating much international publicity for this Land of the Hornbills.
Foreigners pay good money to fly to Sarawak just to partake in these celebration of sounds and sights, and they generate enormous spin-offs way beyond the tourism sectors.
The Miri Country Music Fest 2015, which starts today, has seen block bookings from music lovers from foreign oil and gas expatriates from here and from Brunei, as well as tourists from Indonesia, Singapore and other regional countries.
The event, organised by Planet Conventions and Events, with collaboration with the state tourism authorities, had seen at least one-third of its confirmed bookings coming from foreign tourists, said Planet Convention director Gracie Geikie.
She said such music fests were growing from year to year in Sarawak, with the crowd swelling multiple folds.
“Music has the potential to be a very important earner of the tourism-dollars for Sarawak. This is very evident from the fast-growing response that such fests are getting annually in the state,” she told Sarawak Metro.
“This country music fest in Miri, for example, is drawing visitors from locally, from other states, from neighbouring Brunei as well as from regional neighbours even though it is only in its second year.
“It generates income for our airlines, for our hotels in Miri, for the restaurants and food outlets, for the shopping complexes, for the transportation sectors, for the entertainment centres and also it promotes the image of Sarawak as an international destination for music fests,” she said.
“We have already received bookings of about 2,000 for this Miri Country Music Fest 2015 even before it starts and at least one-third are from foreign tourists.”
There were a lot of online bookings, she said, adding that Planet Conventions and Events was organising this country music fest in Miri for only the second year and the response had been overwhelming.
“Last year we expected a modest crowd of 1,000 for our first year but 1,900 people turned up.
“This year the response has been tremendous even before the fest starts and we expect more walk-in crowd,” she said.
Geikie said the music fest was not only a concert, but also a venue where local handicrafts and food were promoted by the Sarawak Craft Council, and where local native organisations such as the Rurum Kelabits were given the chance to promote their culture and their native traditional festivals.
Booths are also set up for local community bodies like Helping Hands to promote their charity projects and for local traders to sell their goods. Even a perfume maker from Penang will be promoting its products.
“Music fests are excellent events to promote Sarawak and Malaysia in a holistic sense,” she stressed.
The prominent country music bands taking part are Kareem Salama – led by a renowned Egyptian-American musician, Brothers Mel and Joe Ferdinand from Singapore, Indonesia’s Rani and Westom, the Starlets from Miri, the Country Sisters from the Czec Republic, Kuala Lumpur’s OS Pombos and Hi-Breed from Kuching.
Geikie said she and her team would also promote the various exotic destinations throughout Sarawak to the visitors to encourage them to visit places like the world heritage Mulu National Park, Niah and Mukah.