KUCHING: The Sarawak Government is reaching out to China and the private sector to grow tourism, which saw a drop of 7% in foreign arrivals last year compared to 2014.
Greater spending will be directed at major cities in China including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The Sarawak Tourism Board is also targeting second-tier cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Fuzhou, Xiamen and Tianjin.
State Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg (pic) said efforts included briefings, training for front-liners, business sessions and trade engagement. So far, a combination of these activities have been carried out in Hong Kong, Taipei, Xiamen and Tianjin.
"The next series in August will cover Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing," said Johari during his ministerial winding up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly here on Wednesday.
"The short haul markets of Greater China has gained our interests over the years. Many (tourists) are looking for alternative destination or extensions of their holidays from places like Sabah, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore."
Sarawak received 4.5 million foreign arrivals last year- down from 4.9 million in 2014 - which brought in an estimated tourist receipt of RM9.87bil, about 9% of the state gross domestic product. National parks remain one of the main draws.
"To meet expectations, the Forest Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation have identified a few national parks that will be managed by the private sector, namely Bako, where business proposals have been submitted by interested companies and are awaiting Government approval," Johari said.
Other national parks identified for potential private sector management are Semenggoh Nature Reserve, Lambir Hills National Park, Fairy Cave and Wind Cave Nature Reserves.
"The roles of the private sector are on promotion, maintenance of accommodation, toilets, trails signages, improvement on food and beverage, training of guides and others," Johari explained.
The minister revealed three masterplans that are in various stages of consideration and implementation. New beach resorts, cruise ship ports could be built under the Lundu-Sematan Costal Area Tourism Masterplan.
The Padawan, Bau and Lundu District Councils are jointly working on an eco-tourism belt.
"A masterplan study for the development of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy hinterland has identified areas of potential within the Bakun Lake area, surrounding islands and national parks."
Johari said Sarawak would look at New Zealand's tourism industry as a model.
"A good example is how New Zealand transformed from an agriculture based economy into a thriving tourism destination. Tourism in New Zealand directly employs 6.3% of the workforce, whereas agriculture employs 6%," he added.