Malaysiakini Letter

Kuching needs more than just food courts for tourists

YS Chan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah disclosed that he was informed by the Datuk Bandar of Kuching North City Commission Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julai that the present Top Spot Food Court at Jalan Bukit Mata has become too congested.

He stated this at the opening of a restaurant that serves authentic local dishes such as “Manok Pansoh”, ‘Kerabu Midin’ and ‘Terung Dayak Ikan Masin’ and said his ministry is mulling the setting up of another food court in the city to cater for people in search of good food.

As for tourists, their primary concerns are transport, accommodation and meals with sightseeing, shopping and entertainment next. In Kuching, accommodation is adequate and transport available even to outlying areas including the 15 national parks opened to visitors.

But when it comes to the best food, entertainment and shopping, popular outlets are spread all over the place, just like any other city or town. Locals playing hosts to tourists may know these places well but driving to several locations is inconvenient.

As most visitors are oblivious, many miss out on the best that Kuching can offer, not just on food but also shopping and entertainment. While an uneventful stay at a hotel would soon be forgotten, the experience of having great food, shopping and entertainment will long be remembered.

Hence, it is important for every city and town to build a one-stop tourism centre. If well thought out and executed, it could be the epicentre of tourism activities and a must visit for all tourists.

Local authorities should earmark a choice piece of land big enough to construct a large building with adequate parking facilities. The driveway must be designed to facilitate tour buses picking up and dropping off passengers without letting exhaust fumes blow into dining areas.

Local operators that are already famous for their food should be invited to operate in this tourism centre. For the sake of variety, no more than two operators for the same type of dishes be allowed. For fairness and transparency, Kuching residents could be invited to nominate their favourite outlets.

With all the best food in town under one roof, both visitors and locals would head towards such a tourism centre and customers are unlikely to leave immediately after a meal. Most would check out their options for the next meal or trip.

The tourism centre should also house all the best local produce for sale to tourists and these should include not just souvenirs and handicraft but also the best local fruits and food that can be taken away.

All imported items or those from other states should be barred, particularly imitation goods which are available everywhere and compromise the authenticity of an iconic tourism centre.

There should be demonstrations for making local handicraft or cooking local food and lessons for interested visitors to make or cook them.

Cultural shows could also be staged in the foyer to lend a festive air and promote local culture. In between, there could be talks on traditions and heritage, followed by the screening of documentaries on Sarawak.

Experiential tourism would be at its best if tourists could buy and wear local dresses and learn traditional dances on the spot. Upon returning to their home countries, they could proudly wear them again and show to their neighbours and friends what they have experienced in Kuching.

Such tourism centres must also be set up in Miri, Sibu and Bintulu. If these could be built by end of 2019, then Sarawak would be leading all the other states in preparing for Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

Sarawak is blessed with natural attractions but tourists arriving by air will first spend time in these four major urban areas. No other man-made structure could rival a great tourism centre that is well thought out and run, but no such centre exists currently.

A well-designed and efficiently managed tourism centre could easily become the main attraction of any city or town and receive enthusiastic support from all.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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