KUCHING: Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah is enthusiastic and raring to head the Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Ministry, for these are areas he is passionate about.
“These is a very interesting portfolio which is very close to my heart. I’m a person who loves sports, travelling and arts.
“I’m thankful and consider myself lucky that I have been given a portfolio which is of interest to me because if you’re not passionate about things, doing it might not be to your contentment,” he told The Borneo Post when met after the opening of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting yesterday.
According to him, the new ministry that he is in charge of, is a merger of two individual ministries namely Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as Youth, Sports and Solidarity previously but without the ‘Solidarity’ component.
“My expectation and hope after being appointed to be in charge of this ministry is to see both components Tourism, Arts and Culture and Youth and Sports ‘go up’.”
As for tourism, Abdul Karim, who is also Asajaya assemblyman, said although the yardstick would be tourist arrivals in the state, but he would prefer to view it from a wider angle.
“We always look at tourism in terms of areas of interest, beaches, and shopping areas but sometimes we forget especially now in the modern era, tourism also involves areas like medical tourism and sports tourism.”
In citing medical tourism as an example, he said over the years, Sarawak has been a popular destination for medical tourism, which can be seen from the number of foreigners, particularly Indonesians seeking health services in the state, as well as the mushrooming of the private hospitals particularly in Kuching.
“The other area is sports tourism.
You can see during the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open, the hotels were full.
The food centres, restaurants and transportation companies were very happy.
This shows how sports can also generate tourist arrivals.
That’s why, we have to look at it from a very big angle. Probably we can organise a few international sports events not just limited to Kuching, but all over Sarawak,” he added.
Apart from that, Abdul Karim said he would also continue to promote Sarawak as a preferred destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE).
“If we can organise major conferences like International ICT Infrastructure and Digital Economy Conference Sarawak (Idecs), we can attract quality tourists, those who come in with a lot of money.
“They will be staying in expensive hotels.
Therefore, the spin-off from these kind of packages or events that we organise will definitely bring a lot of income not just to hoteliers but all over.
I’m looking at it from many angles,” he said.
Aware that feedback is important in bringing up tourism in the state to greater heights, Abdul Karim said he will set up a think-tank in the form of a tourism consultative council that will involve those who are passionate in the tourism industry among the industry players and academics who are experts in the tourism industry.
“There can be another consultative council on youth and sports where they can bring in input to bring up this industry in Sarawak,” he said.
In realising that connectivity is one of the biggest challenges in the state tourism industry, Abdul Karim said his ministry will have to work harder to find ways to establish more connectivity.
“I noticed Sabah is so far ahead of us.
I’m not being envious or jealous but then probably we did not really push that hard enough for it.
People always say everyone goes to Sabah and Kuala Lumpur and say Sabah has got a lot to offer.
But, have we ever probed into our potential in Sarawak?
“There are so many things that are good in Sarawak but which probably we overlooked.
I’m not putting any blame on anybody but this is something that we have to look into and probably bring up.
“Funding is always a problem.
There are a lot of comments that Sabah has been getting so much more (allocation) from the federal government.
Well, probably they had presented the (proposal) papers to the federal government for the funding and it was accepted. Because of that, we also have to do something like that,” he said.
When asked whether Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg had given him any mission for his ministry, Abdul Karim said the Chief Minister did not specifically mention anything because they are still waiting for the gazette on “our scope and limits”.
“But I can read between the lines that when he merged the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry with the Youth and Sports Ministry, as well as what happened in the last few months when we organised the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open and Victor Far East Malaysia Masters 2017 badminton tournaments, Tun Sharifah Rodziah Cup, the national inter-state women’s football championship Miri where 12 teams participated, the spin-off from there; the hotels, restaurants and transportation companies were very happy.
“They were hoping for more of these (tournaments).
In tourism, we cannot be limited, that tourists must be from China.
They can be from Singapore, Brunei or domestic like from Kuala Lumpur and from Kuching to Miri.
These will help the hotel industry,” he said.
When asked on his role in the new way forward envisioned by the Chief Minister, Abdul Karim said since he is dealing with the younger generation, his role is to make sure that the youth support Abang Johari’s vision in developing areas like digital industry, e-commerce and faster Internet connection in the state.
“The Chief Minister has brought something which tickled our minds.
He has been talking about the digital industry, e-commerce, something which we were aware of like we can buy things online but then he gave special emphasis on it which triggered quite a lot of good things.
“These are the things which he wants to bring in and expand in Sarawak.
He also kept mentioning about the low Internet speed; (Internet) accessibility is very low in Sarawak which is quite true.
“The young generation especially, I can see that from my own constituency in Asajaya, Internet and cyber is something very close to their hearts.
That is why I believe what he is bringing in now is something which is very good and different from his predecessors,” he said. -TheBorneoPost