KUCHING: Sarawak is looking into privatising tourist services at several national parks as a way to improve their quality.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said a committee had been formed to carry out a study on the idea.
He said feedback from tourists to popular national parks such as Bako and Semenggoh indicated that their services and facilities were below par and unsatisfactory.
“To improve the situation, we feel that our national parks should be managed together between the Government and private sector. At present, the parks are managed by the Sarawak Forestry Corp (SFC) and Forest Department, who mainly emphasise conservation.
“So we will maintain the asset, including the conservation and wildlife, but the tourism zone and services will be done by the private sector, which knows the needs of tourists,” he told a press conference at his office here.
Abang Johari said the committee comprised the Resource Planning and Environment Ministry, Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and their respective agencies including SFC, Forest Department and Sarawak Tourism Board.
He said it would look into various approaches for the upgrading of tourist services and facilities at national parks while maintaining the conservation aspect.
“This is very delicate management and the committee will look into how other national parks are run, including the Tunku Abdul Rahman and Kinabalu Parks in Sabah.
“But it has to be looked into with the view of whether it is suitable for Sarawak. We may have to adapt or amend certain approaches to be suitable,” he said.
The study is expected to be completed by December and ready for implementation by January next year. It involves the Bako, Semenggoh and the Fairy and Wind Caves near here for a start.
“Once we have a model, we will apply it to other national parks, particularly Lambir, Niah and Gunung Buda. For Niah, we have to upgrade as it has 40,000 years of civilisation, one of the oldest in the region,” Abang Johari said.
He also said private sector companies wishing to be involved must have some knowledge of conservation as well as expertise in managing tourist services.
“Not everyone can do it. The management must work together with SFC and the Forest Department on conservation,” he said, adding that an open tender would be called after the study was completed.