SIBU: The town has received a boost in its quest for better air connectivity as Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem has said he would help lobby for Hong Kong Airlines to fly here.
It was welcome news as 2017 has been designated as Visit Sibu Year by the Sibu Municipal Council (SMC).
At the launch, Adenan, in a speech read out by Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, said he would persuade Hong Kong Airlines to make Sibu its next destination after Kuching.
The state had signed an agreement with the airline early this year to fly direct twice weekly between Hong Kong and Kuching, with the inaugural flight expected on April 26.
“The Tourism Ministry is working closely with the Resident Office and SMC to organise events and tourism-related activities in Sibu.
“Among them are the Borneo Cultural Festival, Sibu Base Jump and Sibu International Dance Festival,” Johari said.
“Sibu is always busy and the town’s vast hinterland, coupled with that of Kapit, Sarikei and Mukah, has a lot of tourism potential that is yet to be fully tapped and developed.
“The central region is rich in culture, nature, adventure, heritage and history,” he added.
He said the recent announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on elevating Sibu to city status in the near future would spur the development of tourism in the region.
Adenan said the town was a strategic hub for the central region because of its strategic location by air, road and the great Rajang River network.
Besides that, the completion of the Pan Borneo Highway and the secondary road network would make Sibu easily accessible.
In addition, the many longhouses on the road from Kapit to Sibu could be promoted as homestays, making the town a more attractive place for tourists.
Another proactive move was the relocation of the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) visitor information centre to the more strategically located Sibu Heritage Centre Building early this year.
With that, STB was now collaborating with SMC to organise cultural and musical activities twice monthly, he said.
“Anticipating the above developments, Sibu will become a must-visit place for tourists,” he added.
On the importance of tourism to the state and national economy, he said in 2015, Sarawak had 4.5 million visitors, bringing in an estimated tourism revenue of RM9bil, equivalent to about 13% of the state’s gross domestic product.
The State Government, he said, had come up with a number of initiatives for the tourism sector.
They included gazetting more forest areas for national parks; opening of national parks to visitors, hiring researchers and scientists; funding to upgrade facilities in the national park; commissioning of feasibility studies in dedicated areas to look into their tourism potential; and an open sky policy for all interested airlines to fly into the state.
Also at the event were Ministry of Tourism and Culture secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Ong Hong Peng and SMC deputy chairman Datuk Andrew Wong.