Saturday February 9, 2013
Gearing up for a stormy outlook
By VANES DEVINDRAN
KUCHING: The Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) is bracing for a stormy weather for the year ahead despite ushering in the Year of the Snake on a healthy note.
Its chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said the board was not taking things lightly and had been on a preparation mode to jazz up the lull period faced by the tourism industry this year.
He said the Eurozone crisis and the Arab Spring uprising could cause unpredictable conditions and to counter this, Sarawak had shifted its emphasis to attract visitors from neighbouring countries and also those within the region.
“We must not rest on our laurels and always be prepared for stormy weather ahead. As such, it is best to look at countries closer to us like those in BIMP-EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area) because our problem is always air connectivity.
“This year’s focus should be on countries nearby while still maintaining presence in our long-haul sectors like the European markets,” he told reporters at the welcoming of a special charter flight transporting more than 180 tourists from Taipei, Taiwan at Kuching International Airport here yesterday.
Rashid said Sarawak’s natural resources were a commodity but they required the private sector to realise their full potential by making them a part of the state’s whole tourism experience.
“There is a waterfall in Kapit that is likened to a mini Niagara Falls. So now, we need to see how we can get the private sector to come in and turn this into a tourism product,” he gave an example.
Another way, Rashid added, was to hold homegrown events supported by strong marketing activities.
He said this was why STB came up with the Borneo World Music Expo — to be held a week before the state’s iconic Rainforest World Music Festival — and Asian Music Festival in Miri this October.
According to him, this was a good way to create more happenings during the lull period of the year.
In between, he said, Sarawak could bank on marketing itself as a shoppers’ paradise to its neighbours such as Brunei and West Kalimantan, Indonesia given the rise in the number of shopping malls in the state.
On the chartered flight from Taiwan, Rashid said the very good response given by the Taiwanese tourists was made possible through a strong team effort from both sides during the Taiwan International Trade Fair.
The chartered TransAsia Airways flight was the result of an aggressive marketing campaign between STB, Taiwan-based travel agent See Mark Travel Services and Sarawak-own Belair Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd.
The second and the last of these series of chartered flight are expected to arrive on Feb 12 with full passengers onboard.
Arriving to a traditional welcome, the Taiwanese tourists will spend five days and four nights visiting places of interest here including the Bako National Park, Sarawak Cultural Village and orang utan sanctuary in Semenggoh, They will also be taken on city tours, a fruit farm outing and a cruise along the Sarawak river as well as a beach stay in Damai.
Last year, Sarawak hosted 8,910 Taiwanese visitors against 8,743 in 2011. With the chartered flight made available, the number is expected to favourably increase in years to come.
Should the plan for a scheduled chartered flight materialise this year, there would be a marked improvement in arrival from Taiwan.
Sarawak last seen a direct Taipei-Kuching chartered direct flight route in 2011.
Over the last few years, the state had embarked a targeted campaign for the North Asia region, promoting itself as an alternative adventure holiday destination to the Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans.