KUCHING, April 3 — The Visit Sarawak Campaign (VSC), which was launched at the end of last year, has started to produce results as shown by the tourist arrivals registered in January this year, the state’s tourism minister said.

Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said today that visitor arrivals have shown a “remarkable increase” of 10.72 per cent for January to 361,334 compared to 326,347 for the same period of last year.

He hoped the momentum will continue and surpass the target of five million arrivals this year with aggressive marketing in niche markets like China, United Kingdom, European Union and Indonesia.

Speaking to reporters after chairing the state tourism steering committee meeting here, Karim said the Sarawak Tourism Board has been staging international VSC roadshows in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, London, Shenzhen and Berlin, all of which have received encouraging response from industry players.

He said Sarawak received 4.43 million visitors in 2018, mainly from Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, China and Singapore.

Karim said he expects the coming major international events like 4th Asean International Film Festival and Awards, Sarawak International Festival of Music and Arts, Rainforest Fringe, Rainforest World Music Festival, Miri International Jazz,What About Kuching, 26th World Masters Badminton Championship and the 21st Asian Masters Athletics Championship to further boost the arrivals of visitors this year.

He said medical tourism is an important sector to the state economy, with about 50,000 foreign patients, mostly from Indonesia, seeking treatment at private hospitals, bringing in receipts of RM67 million.

“Due to the high currency exchange of Singapore dollar, most Indonesian patients prefer to come to Sarawak,” he said.

Karim said his ministry has established a medical tourism coordination committee to collaborate with hospitals, relevant authorities and the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council to ensure the continuous growth of the medical tourism industry in Sarawak.

He said his ministry has also established an enforcement task force which will monitor complaints received from industry players and tourists.

“The task force will have monthly meetings to discuss and resolve complaints received,” he said, adding that members of the task force will include representatives from his ministry, Tourism Malaysia, Sarawak Tourism Board, Police Department, Immigration Department, Road Transport Department and local councils.