KUCHING: No to sex tourism in Sarawak, says Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem. “People don’t come to Kuching for sex and we don’t want that sort of tourists. Other countries can have them,” Adenan said at opening the two-day Sarawak Tourism Forum on Thursday.
“They (other countries) can do whatever they want, we have better things to do. We’ll focus on promoting what we do best: Culture, adventure and nature.”
Adenan hinted at the possibility of setting up a museum to commemorate Alfred Russel Wallace, who was the co-discoverer of evolution.
He also said the state would pursue better air links, agreeing with private sector representatives the lack of international flights to Sarawak was a major disadvantage.
“I’m afraid we have to admit, compared to Sabah, we are behind them (in tourism). They have more flights to Kota Kinabalu than we have to Kuching. We have to resolve this (moving towards) open skies approach,” he said, referring to the policy liberalising international aviation.
Presently, he added, Kuching International Airport (KIA) had only two hubs - Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport - to rely on for foreign visitors.
The most number of flights from KIA are to Kuala Lumpur, followed by the domestic routes of Kuching-Sibu and Miri. The most popular international route is to Singapore, followed by Pontianak, Indonesia.
The only other international flight from KIA is to Brunei. In comparison, Sabah’s Kota Kinabalu International Airport features much more international routes, including the destinations of Hong Kong, Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Tokyo, Jakarta, among others.
“We will pursue this matter until we get what we want. There is justification for what we want. We don’t want to be sidelined in this matter. We have much to offer on Borneo and we want to share it with the world,” Adenan said.
He called on the private sector to work towards attracting more Chinese and Indian tourists, aside from traditional markets like Europe.
Just imagine what attracting 1% of China and Indian’s tourists could do for Sarawak’s tourism, he told the forum.
Last year, foreign arrivals to Sarawak was 4.8 million, an 11% increase from the year before. In terms of tourism receipts, it was estimated at 12% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product last year.
Adenan hoped to see tourism contribute 20% to the state GDP one day.
The forum is organised by the Sarawak Tourism Federation, which is an umbrella body for the private sector. The theme this year is “Charting Our Direction”.
Among the speakers were Elizabeth Rich, a veteran of the meetings industry in Australia, and Yeoh Siew Hoon, founder of Web In Travel.
Meanwhile, STF announced the biennial Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards will be held here in November. Nominations are open for all 36 categories, from accommodations provider to city and heritage tour guides, from restaurants to express boat operators.
Nomination will close on July 31, and the final evaluation will begin in September.
Judges are according to their areas of expertise. For instance, Sarawak Heritage Society president Karen Shepherd heads the city and heritage guide awards, while accomodation awards would be by Tourism and Culture Ministry’s state director Suriya Charles Buas.
Cash prizes total more than RM300,000.