Sunday, January 01, 2012

Bakun offers huge tourism potential

THE Sungai Asap resettlement scheme in Belaga where the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam is located, can be transformed into one of the best tourist destinations in Sarawak.

It has yet to be fully explored and promoted but most of the tourism-related industry players believe once the facilities are in place, it will become one of the world’s ‘must-go’ tourist destinations.

The Sungai Asap resettlement scheme was set up in 1998 to accommodate some 15,000 people from 15 longhouses who had to be relocated from their original villages in Balui River to make way for the Bakun Hydro project.

Principal Assistant Secretary to the Tourism Ministry Mary Wan Mering said travel agents needed to come up with exciting packages.

“I am happy that the longhouse folks are trying to start homestay programmes to improve their living standard. The ministry is hopeful their initiative will ensure the success of homestay programmes in Sungai Asap,” she said at the recent launching of the Uma Belor Leo Dian Belaga homestay programme.

“Homestay operators in Uma Belor must learn from successful operators through educational visits to Peninsular Malaysia. This will be one of the ministry’s plans.”

Mary hoped the locals would take advantage on what Bakun could offer, especially in ecotourism.

“The potential is there to be tapped. The people must seize the opportunity to benefit from this unique tourism asset,” she said.

Meanwhile, Samuel Chung, managing director of Straits Central Travel & Tour Agencies disclosed at the launching of Uma Belor Sungai Asap home-stay that six travel agents participated in the Bakun familiarisation trip.

“We have been to few longhouses. They are among the best products that can be commercialised locally and internationally,” he said.

Air connection

He suggested travel agents work with the local airline to promote Uma Belor as a transit point.

“With the help of the Tourism Ministry, we have talked to the airline to give us a special fare. I hope this will materialise soon. I have spoken to general manager of MasWing and he has agreed to hold further discussions on the matter.

“We want to concentrate on eco-tourism — the people come here for Nature. We also want to help train local tour guides to protect the interests of the local people. We are fully committed to this,” he added.

Chung also suggested a tourism task group be formed to educate the homestay operators on the tourism industry.

Earlier, during an interview, he described Bakun as a very interesting new product.

“Of course, we have the Batang Ai Dam which is beautiful as well but Bakun dam is something else – it’s one of the biggest in the world. So it’s the job for the tourism people to develop the area as a tourism product.

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