Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sarawak's bid to boost tourism through Australians


By JACK WONG

KUCHING: Sarawak has come up with repackaged tours that make it attractive for Australian tourists to spend a longer time in the state.

The new packages will lure them to visit more tourist spots, said Sarawak Tourism Board’s chief executive officer Gracie Geikie.

She said an Australian departing from Perth pays A$1,699 (RM4,757) for a five-day tour to the city, and by forking out A$300 (RM840) extra, they could stay three more days and go to the Mulu National Park, a world heritage site in northern Sarawak.

They have other choices, like extending their holidays at the scenic Damai resorts in Santubong near here.

Geikie said Malaysia Airlines, which operates twice weekly Perth-Kuching-Kuala Lumpur flights, had offered special rates to a consortium of Australian tour operators.

The national air carrier has reduced the airfares for the Kuching-Miri-Mulu sector by 40%.

Geikie said the new packages introduced two months ago had received good response as shown by the increasing number of arrivals from Australia.

Sarawak recorded over 11,000 Australian visitors in 2004, and this was estimated to jump to some 14,000 last year.

“We are targeting a 30% increase this year, in both the number of visitors and the length of their stay.

“Australians love longhouses, jungles, beaches and culture. Sarawak have all of those.

“The strong Australian currency is another plus,” Geikie told The Star yesterday.

She said that although MAS enjoyed an average 90% passenger load on the Perth-Kuching-Kuala Lumpur flights, only 9% of Australians came to Sarawak while the rest were taking their holidays in Langkawi, Penang and other places in the peninsula.

She said the board had changed its marketing strategy by meeting Australian tour operators three times a year to update them on the latest tourism products, and find out their needs and problems they faced in selling Sarawak packages.

The board is taking part in Australian consumer fairs to create greater awareness about the “Land of the Hornbill”.

Its officials will be in Perth next month for another roadshow.

Similar promotions have been held in Sydney and Melbourne. MAS operates a weekly direct flight between Sydney and Kuching.

Geikie said Sarawak was also promoting itself in China, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia.

Sarawak has recently re-branded itself from “Sarawak - the hidden paradise of Borneo” to “More than a Paradise” to stay competitive.

Source: The Star

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