Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sarawak gearing up for tourism year

KUCHING - Sarawak, "Land of the Hornbills", which has targeted six million tourist arrivals this year is all geared up to welcome tourists during Visit Malaysia Year 2007 (VMY 2007).

State Assistant Tourism Minister, Hamden Ahmad said this followed a series of roadshows throughout Sarawak to get all parties involved to be prepared to welcome tourists during VMY 2007.

"They include activities like the Sarawak Regatta Sarawak, Benak Festival, Borneo Cultural Festival and programmes like home-stay and other festivals at Kampung Budaya Sarawak," he told the media after opening the Sarawak Cultural Museum here yesterday.

Hamden added efforts were also being made to improve the air transportation system, the pulse of Sarawak tourism, in stages.

He added several routes popular among tourists would be given priority and that the problems were being resolved by the airlines concerned namely Malaysia Airline, AirAsia and Fly Asian Xpress (FAX).

He said other than focusing on Sarawak's eco-tourism and cultural products, the state government also strove to make Sarawak a centre for world-class conventions.

In this respect, Sarawak may soon have a convention centre capable of hosting large number of delegates to international conferences, Hamden said.

"Making available adequate hotel rooms is another immediate concern. There is simply not enough rooms for guests when the festivals are held," Hamden added.

Last year Sarawak attracted 4.5 million tourists of whom 2.3 million were mostly from Australia, Europe and the United States while the remainder were from Brunei and Singapore.

Meanwhile, in Kota Baharu, Tourism Ministry deputy secretary-general Patimah Zohro Hassan said the ministry was making preparation to welcome tourists during VMY 2007 and asked the media to assist by painting a positive picture of the country.

She added promotion efforts were in the final stages and that the ministry had lined up 50 mega activities for VMY 2007.

"The media has a major role to play in promoting Malaysia to tourists. As such, stories about the spread of diseases must not exaggerated as it can adversely affect tourist arrivals," Patimah said when opening a journalism and writing seminar in conjunction with VMY 2007.

The country hosted some 8.6 million tourists in the first six months of the year, an increase of 4.7 per cent compared with the corresponding period last year.


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