Organise inbound tours too, operators urged

Hii (second from left) presenting a lucky draw prize to a winner, Mike Henry, while Sharzede (left) and Ngui look on.

SARAWAK’s tourism industry has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a 71% drop in tourist arrivals to the state.

State Tourism Board (STB) vice-chairman Hii Chang Kee said the number of tourist arrivals was 4.66 million in 2019 compared to only 1.2 million last year.

He said various celebrations and festivals had to be cancelled or postponed, including the Rainforest World Music Festival that was key to the state’s tourism sector.

STB, he said, had to make many adjustments in accordance to the new norm, find ways and strategies to minimise impact and help the tourism industry recover quickly.

He said tourism players in the state needed to look into new opportunities available in order to boost the industry this year.

“We encourage tour operators to relook at opportunities such as Siasitok, a campaign to boost the state’s tourism efforts and activities.

“The campaign will allow Sarawakians and non-Sarawakians residing and working in Sarawak to experience and enjoy the beauty the state has to offer, at substantial discounts of up to 50%, “ he elaborated.

As for tourism players in the central region, Hii advised them to offer inbound tours instead of their traditional role of bringing locals to Sabah, peninsular Malaysia and overseas.

“We encourage all tour operators in the central region to not only organise outbound tours but also bring tourists in from outside the state and country.

“The number of operators here doing inbound tours are only a handful, ” he noted during STB’s media night in Sibu.

He also called on them to promote Sibu as a gateway to the central region.

“I always tell local tourism industry players to not only promote Sibu town alone but promote it as a gateway to the central region.

“When people come here, they can have a lot of choices. They can go to Sarikei, Kapit, Mukah and even Betong which is nearer to Sibu than Kuching, ” he pointed out.

With the Sibu-Kapit Road nearing completion, Hii believed that it presented a great opportunity for operators to promote domestic tourism.

Among those present at the event were STB chief executive officer Sharzede Salleh Askor and board member Ngui Ing Ing. – By ANDY CHUA

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