KUCHING, May 14 — Sarawak Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah today expressed optimism that the caves in the Niah National Park will be recognised by Unesco as a world archaeological heritage site.

He said the nomination for the archaeological heritage under the cultural heritage category has progressed significantly.

“The final decision regarding the Unesco World Heritage Site status of the Niah Caves will be announced during the World Heritage Committee Conference in July 2024,” he said in his winding-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly.

“There is a prevailing sense of optimism that the Niah Caves will secure this prestigious designation, following in the footsteps of Gunung Mulu National Park, thereby further boosting tourism in the region,” he said.

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Karim also said his ministry is actively involved in the Technical Working Groups for Geotourism Product Development and Promotion in the plans for the Sarawak Delta Geopark (SDGp) to attain Unesco Global Geopark status.

He said the SDGp, located to the west of Sarawak, covering Kuching Division and part of Serian, at a size of 3,112 square kilometres became the 6th National Geopark on June 20, 2022, and with plans to attain Unesco Global Geopark status.

Karim said collaborative efforts with Tourism Malaysia in developing SDGp as tourism destination have led to the development and promotion of 37 tourism packages for SDGp and Gawai Dayak celebration this year.

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He said these packages, showcasing geological, biological, and cultural heritage, have seen promising sales and revenue.

“One of the objectives of SDGp is to empower and engage local communities in geotourism, aiming to enhance their well-being while simultaneously conserving the environment and heritage,” he said.

He added capacity building programmes are planned to enhance the knowledge and skills of local operators and guides.

He said various community development initiatives are in the pipeline, such as tourism and conservation awareness campaigns, craft-making workshops, hospitality and service quality, health and safety, event management training, and nature-based guiding programmes.

“These efforts align with several Sustainable Development Goals for geoparks, such as to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning,” he said.