KUCHING, Feb 22 — Sarawak is targeting to receive 1.2 million visitors and generate RM3.2 billion in tourism receipts this year, said Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

According to him, the number of visitors coming to Sarawak has shot up by more than 400 per cent in January and February this year, compared to the corresponding months last year.

“We do hope this year, we would be able to bring in the number of visitors targeted. Give us another one or two years probably, once the confidence level has come back then the number of visitors will shoot up again (to pre Covid-19 times),” he told a press conference after the Sarawak Tourism Steering Committee Meeting (STSC) today.

Abdul Karim said the targeted visitors would not only be domestic tourists from Peninsular Malaysia but include those from countries that would have vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) arrangement with Malaysia especially from Brunei.

“Before Covid-19, most visitors to Sarawak were from Brunei. With VTL, the number would definitely shoot up. Even though they travel in by land, they still account for the visitor number as they will be spending money. Once the border is open, the Bruneians will be coming in.

“In addition, we also encourage visitors from Singapore. The way I see it, those who love to travel you can’t stop them. Definitely, they will scout around. They might not want to go very far but within the South-east Asia region. That is why our marketing for the next one year is very important whether in Singapore, Brunei, Peninsular Malaysia or other South-east Asian countries,” he said.

Abdul Karim believed that once Covid-19 has subsided, all those events and festivals such Rainforest World Music Festival, Spartan Race and Kuching Marathon that the state has been holding prior to the Covid-19 pandemic would be making a comeback.

He also hoped to see the state’s medical tourism booming again once the borders are reopened.

“Once we have reached that stage people will slowly start to come in. The last two years have conditioned our minds to be that way, worried of crowds and so on. It takes a while for the mind to be conditioned back to pre-Covid.

“That is why we are coming up with more events just to build up that confidence level. Also to showcase to the world at large that apart from hosting events, we also make sure all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) are met,” he said.

Earlier during the meeting, Abdul Karim launched the Sarawak’s Tourism Quick Fact Book 2021 and Calendar of Events 2022. Both can be found in electronic form at https://mtcp.sarawak.gov.my.

On the calendar of events, he said it is a non-exhaustive list as there are new events that were not included.

“Many are still writing in to us, wanting to hold events,” he added.

Responding to questions, Abdul Karim said he was unsure if Covid-19 had directly caused any travel or tour companies to close.

“Probably the owner might not be interested anymore. As it is, if there is any company closing purely because of Covid-19, I think unlikely.

“The state government really tries to assist with various packages to keep all those involved in travel and tour industry alive,” he said.

Among those present were Assistant Minister for Creative Industry and Performing Arts Datuk Snowdan Lawan, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chairman Dennis Ngau, Ministry of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Permanent Secretary Hii Chang Kee and STB chief executive officer Sharzede Datu Salleh Askor. — Borneo Post Online