Friday, 19 May 2017

‘RM60 million for 13 KRA tourism projects this year’

Abdul Karim shows his winding-up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Complex. Abdul Karim delivered his first ministerial winding-up speech yesterday.

KUCHING: The state government has approved RM60 million for the implementation of 13 Key Result Areas (KRAs) tourism projects this year.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah announced this in his winding-up speech yesterday, which led to Chong Chieng Jen (DAP-Kota Sentosa) questioning whether the allocation was sufficient.

The DAP leader also queried why Mulu National Park, a Unesco-listed site had been excluded from the 13 KRA projects.

“I hear no promotions on Mulu Caves, which is a world heritage site that has been underutilised. The total amount of RM60 million for the 13 projects which will be carried out, do you think it is highly sufficient?” asked Chong, seeking a point of clarification.

Abdul Karim responded: “Definitely, Mulu is a world-renowned heritage and tourist destination which is something we should be proud of.”

He then pointed out that yesterday marked only the 10th day of him holding the ministerial portfolio.

“I’m not going to say we are not going to look into this matter. Definitely, it will be looked into but then the discussion of the KRAs had been done much earlier (before Abdul Karim took office).

“But we will look into this matter and there will be some provisions catering for those tourist sites including Mulu Caves. On the RM60 million (allocated), I can’t really say whether this is sufficient or not.”

The minister pledged that “all areas which are potential areas to market and sell will be looked into”.

Right before Abdul Karim proceeded with his winding-up speech, Irene Chang (DAP-Bukit Assek) was granted the floor after her attempt to seek clarification from the minister.

She asked whether the state government had any plans for Sibu given that it is now Visit Sibu Year 2017.

“This year is Visit Sibu Year 2017 but I didn’t hear any plans. Is there any plan for Sibu at all?” asked Chang.

In response, Abdul Karim said the budget for tourism-related projects in Sibu must have been approved last year.

“I believe the allocation for Sibu might have been in the budget from last year. What I mentioned just now is the allocation for this year.

“From the way I see it, (the budget) for the Mulu and Niah Caves will definitely be next year. So we have to divide it up,” added Abdul Karim.

Also seeking clarification was Chiew Chin Sing (DAP-Tanjong Batu), who asked whether the ministry had any plans to promote tourism alongside the development of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

Abdul Karim responded by saying that there were a lot of potential areas worth promoting but he had to look into it before making an announcement.

“I have to really sit down with the promotional teams to see how we can look into promoting Bintulu and Miri as tourist destinations,” he said, reiterating that he was still new to the ministry.

Earlier, the minister read out seven of the 13 KRA projects that would be implemented this year.

The seven projects were under sub-headings: Branding for Sarawak, Upgrading of Tourism Infrastructure and Facilities, Development of New Tourism Products, Face-lifting and upgrading works, Creating fringe events for several iconic events, To establish a dedicated Sarawak tourism App and Increasing direct flights.

Abdul Karim said the ministry had to create a brand identity for Sarawak not only as a tourist destination but also as a business event, trade and investment destination.

“The approach and strategy need to be holistic and to cover as many sectors as possible. Hence, the state government has agreed to engage a brand specialist to look into this matter.”

He said infrastructure at Bako National Park, Fairy Cave and Wind Cave would be upgraded while a boat jetty would be erected at Santubong for visitors to Kuching Wetland Ramsar Site.

He said his ministry was also looking into establishing a dedicated Sarawak tourism App that caters to all needs of visitors.

“With this App, all information on tourism will be co-ordinated and linked to all social media networks and finally will funnel into ‘call for action’ links.

“My ministry will also provide incentives to interested airlines to fly direct to Sarawak, either on chartered or scheduled flights,” he added. -TheBorneoPost

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