LETTER | The Sarawak government has reportedly stated that it hopes to attract five million visitors this year and this initiative has been well received by the tourism and related industries in the state.
Sarawak definitely has a number of attractions and sites for visitors and the Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs fully supports this initiative.
However, there are a few issues that need to be addressed by Sarawak in its goal of becoming a major tourist destination.
Foremost, Sarawak must overcome the problem of limited flights to and from the state. This bottleneck has always been a sore point with local and foreign investors in Sarawak, which is akin to the chicken-and-egg question – how to offer more flights when the numbers are not there and how to get the numbers when the flights are lacking.
Direct flights to and from Sarawak are preferred but currently there are only a few of them. As mooted by the state, the setting up of a state airline may be one of the options to be seriously considered for the development of the tourism and related industries in Sarawak.
To attract visitors, there must be enough places to visit, and things to do and explore like the extraordinary World Heritage Gunong Mulu National Park. Currently, Sarawak’s Rainforest World Music Festival is the most famous event, which has in recent years been staged in conjunction with food festivals and other related events in and around Kuching.
Certainly, there must be more things to do in the state and efforts must be made to coordinate these events in such a way that visitors could enjoy themselves with minimum hassle of travel and cost.
For a start, package deals for events and celebrations could be considered as such packages can attract large numbers of visitors, which in turn will boost Sarawak internationally.
Among Sarawak's main attractions are the relatively lower costs compared to other destinations in Malaysia, variety of foods, people and places unique to each ethnic group and safe surroundings.
A number of health tourism-related packages has also been started by various institutions taking advantage of the proximity of neighbouring states. These offers could be similarly coordinated to reap maximum benefits for such visitors to the state.
With the impending completion of major connecting roads in Sarawak, the future of the tourism industry in the state looks good.
But the public and private sectors must cooperate to ensure the tourism industry can move at a faster rate.