KUCHING: Sarawak has received 3.18 million visitors as of October, exceeding its target of three million arrivals this year.
This is an increase of 131% from the same period last year, according to state Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.
He said tourism receipts this year stood at RM8.07bil to date, contributing about 5.75% to the state's gross domestic product (GDP).
"Looking at this encouraging trend, my ministry would like to revise visitor arrivals in 2024 to four million, with an estimated RM9.76bil in revenue," he said in his winding-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (Nov 28).
Abdul Karim said visitor arrivals to Sarawak were expected to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2025, corresponding to signs of positive growth in the global tourism scenario.
He said his ministry had allocated grants totalling RM38.7mil to support 213 events and festivals in the state this year.
Major international events supported by the ministry included the Rainforest World Music Festival in June, the Asean International Film Festival and Awards in August, Kuching Marathon and Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta in October, and the upcoming Sarawak International Festival of Music and Arts and Sibu International Bike Week in December.
Abdul Karim also said national parks and nature reserves continued to be the top attractions for domestic and foreign visitors to Sarawak.
As of October, the 25 national parks and nature reserves open to visitors received a total of 426,925 visitors.
"To enhance visitor experience, nine highly visited parks and nature reserves – Bako, Kubah, Gunung Gading, Tanjung Datu, Similajau, Niah and Lambir Hills national parks and the Matang and Semenggoh wildlife centres – have been upgraded with WiFi connectivity," he said.
In addition, Abdul Karim said, Sarawak was an attractive health tourism destination, with Indonesia and Brunei the main revenue contributors to this sector.
He said Sarawak recorded 28,000 health visitors with an estimated revenue of RM54mil so far this year.
"The projected healthcare travel revenue for Sarawak this year is RM91.5mil.
"This indicates optimism and confidence in the continued growth of the sector and supports Sarawak as a well-positioned destination to build on its success in attracting international patients," he said.