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KUCHING, March 16 — Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah has described 2020 as a horrible year for the state’s tourism industry but he is optimistic that things will be better this year.
However, he said the number of visitor arrivals in Sarawak for the first two months of this year was even lower than that recorded during the same months last year, with the number of domestic visitor arrivals only at 7,369 in February, compared to 199,893 in the same month last year, while there were only 1,600 foreign visitors in February 2021 compared to 111,275 in the same month last year.
“Visitor arrivals dropped 74 per cent from 4,662,419 in 2019 to 1,199,872 in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Compared to 2019, the tourism receipts in 2020 declined 75 per cent to just RM2.88 billion, with an estimated loss of RM8.69 billion.
“So it was a huge drop,” he said at a press conference after chairing the Sarawak Tourism Steering Committee meeting here today.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, he said his ministry had to start building confidence among the industry players, starting with local tourism, inter-state, regional and gradually global tourism once the situation returned to normal.
Abdul Karim said the ministry had been implementing short-term measures for recovery of the tourism, arts and culture industry with the support and active engagement with various tourism industry players and stakeholders.
These measures include building confidence in travel through stringent SOPs endorsed by the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), discounts as travel incentive through the Sia Sitok Campaign to promote intra-state travel and Visitor Incentive Packages (VIP) to promote inter-state travel.
He said the Online Ecosystem Fund to help hotels by designating them as quarantine centres, incentives to encourage home-grown business events, continuous capacity-building, the virtual market place or travel mart and research to prepare for the return of tourists were also initiated.
“The Sia Sitok Sarawak Tour Package 1.0 has indeed generated good response. Therefore, we have extended the travelling period to March 31, 2021 and as of today, it has generated more than RM1,569,026 in sales for 941 tour packages and 5,668 pax.
“My ministry and the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) will continue the Sia Sitok in its version 2.0 where 60 packages will be for the period of March 31 to November 2021. A wider range of domestic tour packages will be created to target locals to travel in our state while benefiting the tourism industry as a whole,” he added.
On the “travel bubble” arrangement with Singapore, he said the Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia was positive about it but they would only sit to discuss it when the situation improved.
Singapore had announced it would temporarily suspend its reciprocal “travel bubble” arrangement with neighbouring Malaysia as well as South Korea and Germany, amid the resurgence of Covid-19 cases worldwide and its reported new variants. — Bernama