KUCHING: With a budget allocation of RM48mil, the state government wants to develop Sarawak as a top tourism destination in the region.
Action plans for next year will focus on culture, adventure and nature infrastructure, facilities, events and festivals as well as product development and enhancement.
For a start, facilities in Bako National Park, Kuching Wetlands National Park, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, Wind Cave, Fairy Cave and Niah Cave will be given a facelift incorporativity tourist-friendly elements, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said.
“Upgrading works include repair and replacement of jetties, plank walks and trails, signage, parking spaces, toilets, information centres and souvenir shops.
“The privatisation of several tourist services will also be carried out in our effort to improve their quality and standard,” he said in winding up matters related to the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.
National parks were the most preferred destinations in the state among local and international visitors, attracting 423,333 tourists who generated RM4.53mil in revenue from January to September this year.
Overall, Sarawak received 3.8 million arrivals from January to October this year, an increase of 1% compared to the same period last year, bringing in estimated tourism receipts of RM7.5bil.
Based on previous trends, 4.7 million visitor arrivals are expected this year, an increase from 4.5 million last year.
Next year, the state is targetting five million arrivals and RM10.68bil in tourism receipts.
Abang Johari said other plans include transforming the Kuching Waterfront into a vibrant weekend pedestrian zone, constructing the Santubong Archaeological Park which will incorporate the Wallace Centre and converting the old state assembly building into a performing arts centre.
He said five of the state’s old forts would be conserved and upgraded into regional museums, with work on three to start next year and the remaining two to commence in 2018.
To address Sarawak’s air connectivity challenge, Abang Johari said the state was pursuing a charter flight approach from selected destinations, starting with the signing of an agreement with Hong Kong Airlines in May to fly the Kuching-Hong Kong route.
“The inaugural flight took off on May 28. As of August, the twice-weekly flight ferried 2,899 foreign passport holders into Sarawak.
The average seat capacity carried by the airline into Sarawak for the period stood at 73%,” he said.
Abang Johari added that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been signed with Taiwan-based See Mark Travel Services to mount one charter flight in February and 19 flights from June to August next year, which are expected to bring in 3,200 visitors and RM10.4mil in tourism receipts.
A similar MoU was signed with a travel agent in Hebei, China, to expand joint collaboration for movement of tourists and tourism-related business between Hebei province and Sarawak.