‘Gateway’ campaign aims for four million visitors

The renowned Rainforest World Music Festival is an annual event that brings in visitors to Sarawak. — Pics by ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

SARAWAK is poised to capitalise on the post-pandemic travel surge with its new “Gateway to Borneo” tourism campaign, aiming to draw four million visitors this year.

The campaign, unveiled at the ITB Berlin 2024 tourism trade fair in March, positions Sarawak as the primary entry point to Borneo, including Sabah, Kalimantan and Brunei.

“Gateway to Borneo is a catchy and colourful tagline. With the name Borneo, we are making ourselves more prominent,” state Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Sharzede Salleh Askor said the state is working closely with Sabah, Brunei and several destinations in Kalimantan to promote Borneo as a whole.

She said this included a Unesco trail package between Sabah and Sarawak.

Additionally, a Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) fair in September will showcase both states under Borneo.

The Deer Cave in Mulu National Park, one of Sarawak’s natural assets.The Deer Cave in Mulu National Park, one of Sarawak’s natural assets.

“We’re taking that bold step to say we are the gateway, but we don’t want to alienate our neighbours. So we are making packages and showcasing Borneo as a destination.”

Abdul Karim said the campaign does not target any specific market since Sarawak welcomes all visitors who appreciate the state’s beauty and culture.

With visitor arrivals picking up in the first two months of this year, he said he is confident of hitting and even exceeding the target.

Sarawak received 750,768 visitors in January and February, up from the pre-pandemic figure of 697,822 in 2019.

“The highest visitor arrivals we have ever achieved was 4.6 million in 2019. Looking at the January and February figures, this year it can even hit five million,” he said.

Abdul Karim attributed the strong recovery in Sarawak’s tourism sector to post-pandemic “revenge tourism”.

A Rafflesia blooming at Gunung Gading National Park. Sarawak’s natural beauty is one of its attractions for tourists.A Rafflesia blooming at Gunung Gading National Park. Sarawak’s natural beauty is one of its attractions for tourists.

“After Covid-19 there has been an urge among people wanting to travel. They want to go somewhere after being cooped up for two years.

“I also have to acknowledge the efforts made by the relevant agencies in pushing tourism through many programmes. I think these are the fruits that we are seeing,” he said.

Abdul Karim said Sarawak’s natural beauty and cultural diversity were among its attractions for tourists.

He said annual events like the renowned Rainforest World Music Festival, the Sarawak Regatta and the Kuching Food Festival have also brought in large numbers of visitors.

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