KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 — Efforts to strengthen community-based tourism (CBT) in Sarawak will be further intensified through commercialisation and craft development programmes, said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri.

Nancy, who is also Batang Sadong Member of Parliament said apart from enjoying the beauty of Sarawak’s flora and fauna, tourists are also looking for a different kind of tourism experience such as obtaining unique craft products which each district in the state could fully utilise to their advantage.

She is confident that Sarawakians could generate lucrative income making and selling crafts because between Jan 1 and Sept 30 this year the 1,109 craft entrepreneurs in Sarawak managed to generate more than RM11.7 million in sales.

"This shows that we (residents) benefit a lot. So in this case, Motac (Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture) through agencies such as the Sarawak branch of the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation will actively empower community-based tourism which is one of the segments under ecotourism," she told Bernama in a recent interview.

Apart from that, to further promote Sarawak to the world, Nancy said Motac is also planning to highlight all that the state can offer to international tourists at Expo 2020 Dubai which had started in October. 

She said Motac would utilise the main slot in week 13 of the expo to promote Sarawak as an eco-tourism based destination as well as a venue for international conferences and exhibitions which had garnered RM457 million in revenue for Sarawak for the past 10 years.

Nancy said to further intensify the effort, Motac had met with the state government to coordinate and drive the development of nine ecotourism clusters it had identified including Lundu-Sematan-Telok Melano-Tanjung Datu; Bako-Santubong-Kubah-Semenggoh-Bau-Padawan; Sri-Aman-Batang Ai-Ulu Sungai Menyang-Maludam; Sibu-Kapit-Tunoh-Baleh-Palagus; as well as Mukah-Daro-Pulau Bruit-Tanjung Manis.

She said the establishment of these ecotourism clusters was to ensure that the locations could be developed sustainably through CBT activities as well as to enable holistic development of the homestay experience programme.

"Currently, there are a total of 3,397 Sarawak homestay operators registered with the ministry involving 50 villages and the most active homestay is located in Bario Highlands in Miri," she said.

Nancy said in terms of skills and training, Motac is ready to offer tourism upskilling and reskilling programmes to local residents so that they could compete significantly at the international level.

She said the move is important to support the state government’s aspiration to achieve its vision of becoming a developed state by 2030.

Nancy said the programmes would further help Sarawakians when more economic opportunities are created following Indonesia's move to make East Kalimantan, which is close to the state, the country’s capital soon. — Bernama