Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sarawak Tourism ministry wants to make it easier for tourists to visit Sarawak from Brunei

KUCHING: The Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry is seeking approval from the federal government to introduce Visa On Arrival (VOA) facility in Miri and Sungai Tujuh immigration checkpoints.

Its minister, Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, who is also deputy chief minister, said they had sent the application to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the Home Minister, last week.

“We want to designate and gazette Miri and Sungai Tujuh immigration checkpoints to issue VOA, especially for Chinese tourists,” he said.

Abang Johari highlighted this at the launching of 101 Holidays in Sarawak by Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) Sarawak and the first Mita Sarawak Business Networking Session at Riverside Majestic Hotel here yesterday.

“We have collaboration with Brunei and their Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) flights are also bringing tourists from China.

So, when the Chinese tourists are in Brunei, they can obtain visa to come into Miri,” he added.

The state, he emphasised, has in recent years been aggressively promoting Sarawak as a tourism destination in China, especially Hong Kong.

On the lack of air connectivity, Abang Johari said Sarawak could not depend on Malaysia Airline (MAS) or MASWings.

“MAS is neither alive nor dead (hidup pun tidak, mati pun tidak), so our tourism ‘pun mati pun tidak, hidup pun tidak’, while MasWings constantly cancelled its flights.

So we cannot rely on people to determine our life,” he said.

“And due to monopoly, they (MASWing) also raised their fares.  Now they cut down their flights between Sarawak.  Hence, we decided to work with other airlines including Singapore Airline and Silk Air besides RBA Brunei,” he said.

Abang Johari believed that tourists holidaying in the region like Brunei would want to maximise their money spent on vacation to see more than one place.

“So they could get VOA to explore Miri that offers so many interesting and unique attractions including Mulu heritage site, the Blue Tears in Tusan Beach and the Lambir National Park, just to name a few,” he said.

“We hope to hear the good news from the federal government on the VOA soon,” he added.

Abang Johari also pointed out the need to upgrade the digital infrastructure across Sarawak especially in rural areas.