|Abdul Karim in a press conference after chairing the Sarawak Tourism steering committee meeting.|
KUCHING: Sarawak is in need of more Mandarin-speaking tour guides to cope with the rise in tourist arrivals from China.
Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said his ministry is looking at various plans to meet the shortage including hiring individuals who can converse in Mandarin as temporary tour guides.
He added that tourism players and stakeholders were told to tackle the lack of Mandarin-speaking tour guides by also sending their employees for courses.
The state government will also make arrangements with the Forest Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation to have guides at national parks who are conversant in Mandarin.
“In January to March this year, the state recorded over 20,000 passengers plying this sector.
“We need to improve proficiency in Mandarin amongst our guides and frontliners especially with the expected increase in the number of tourists from China,” Abdul Karim told reporters after chairing the Sarawak Tourism steering committee meeting here.
On another note, the minister said Sarawak collected RM879,058 in tourism tax since its implementation in September last year and under the current arrangement of RM5 for every RM10 collected, the state will receive RM439,529.
On tourist arrivals from neighbouring Brunei, the state government is looking to address the issue of “Visa on Arrival” at the borders with the Immigration Department.
“We want to make the procedure for foreign tourists visiting Sarawak from Brunei easier,” Abdul Karim said.
At the same time, the state will continue to increase air connectivity by having more direct flights from international destinations such as Singapore, Shenzen and Pontianak, Indonesia, as well as domestic destinations such as Penang, Johor Baru and Kota Kinabalu.
Sarawak recorded 4.8 million tourist arrivals last year, an increase of 4.2% from 2016.
Tourism receipts for 2017 totalled RM8.59bil compared to RM8.37bil the previous year.
The average growth rate for visitor arrivals between 2010 and 2017 was 6.03%, while the average growth rate for receipts in the same period was 4.64%.
The top three markets for visitor arrivals in Sarawak last year were Brunei (1.73 million), Indonesia (513,442) and the Philippines (68,380).
Sarawak is targeting 5.25 million visitors this year. -TheStar