Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sarawak plans religious tours for Chinese tourists


MIRI: Sarawak's picturesque mosques and temples will be promoted in China to attract more visitors from there.

At the same time, said the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), the state will also promote its halal and vegetarian food through special packages for Chinese tourists.

So, whether “they are Muslims, Buddhists or Taoists,” the Land of the Hornbill will be a delightful place for them to visit, said STB chief executive officer Gracie Geikie.

“Sarawak has some of the most fascinating mosques and temples in the country, especially in Kuching, Sibu and Miri,” she said.

For instance, Kuching's Masjid Jamek is one of the oldest mosques in the country and its Tua Pek Kong temple is also a historical landmark, while Miri's Lian Hua San Ching temple is the largest Taoist temple in South-East Asia.

“There are more than 70 million Muslims in China and hundreds of millions of Buddhists, Taoists and devotees of other religions.

“If we can attract 10% of them to visit Sarawak and Malaysia, it would be a tremendous achievement,” said Geikie.

The state will showcase its variety of Muslim and Chinese food as well as beautiful textiles and other homegrown products that are unique to Sarawak society, she said in an interview.

Geikie said religious tours are something new in Sarawak and, perhaps, even in Malaysia.

“We have yet to fully highlight our religious assets to the rest of the world. Religious tours are big in many countries.

“Many tourists are attracted to the concept of travelling for sightseeing and visiting religious shrines,” she said, adding that Christian tours are already a worldwide norm.

Geikie said Malaysia Airlines was already flying direct between Kuching and several Chinese cities, and has agreed to have flights to Shanghai and Beijing from Miri.

She said that unlike conventional tours when visitors only stay a few days, religious tours could see tourists staying for up to 10 days or more.

Courtesy of The Star

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