Monday, January 20, 2014

Sarawak aims to be a major eco-tourism destination in region

KUCHING: Malaysia, especially Sarawak, will promote itself as a major eco-tourism destination in the region to tap the shifting global trend among tourists towards eco-tourism.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, citing statistics from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), said tourists were now flocking to places such as Central Africa, the Amazon in Central America, Kenya in Africa, and Southeast Asian countries.

“When there is a trend like that, Malaysia thinks we can play a role in attracting interests towards new products based on our bio-diversity,” he said during a special interview session with journalists covering the 17th Meeting of Asean Tourism Ministers here yesterday.

The meeting was held in conjunction with the Asean Tourism Forum 2014 (ATF 2014), which is hosted by Malaysia, and is being held here.

Attending this eight-day international forum are leaders and delegates from Asean member countries and their dialogue partners, including those from East Asia.

Abang Johari enthused that this huge event would do the state very well in terms of wooing more foreign tourists to its shores.

He added that after developing its energy and industrial sectors, the next move for the state was to develop the services sector such as tourism, which required good infrastructure in order to attract more visitors.

The government, he said, would be “putting in a lot of money” in the 11th Malaysia Plan to boost its tourism industry, and it would work closely with the private sector to realise its goals.

Among others, Abang Johari said, the state had engaged experts from New Zealand to conduct a masterplan study on hinterland tourism with the aim of developing eco-friendly rural tourism infrastructure.

Hinterland tourism would also benefit homestay operators, he opined.