It is indeed heartening to see the strong support given by all of our tourism players during the recent engagement session jointly organized by Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak.
The event was held via Online and I would like to thank everyone for their support this important engagement session which include briefings on “COVID-19: Travel & Tourism Scenario and Economic Impact”, National Tourism Policy 2020-2030 and Skim Pembiayaan Pelancongan PENJANA/ PENJANA Tourism Financing (PTF).
In my speech, I spoke on impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and on our tourism industry which is going through challenging times where all international borders are closed and even though our own government is trying very hard to revive domestic and green lane travel, such efforts were dampened by the continuous spikes of Covid-19 cases locally and also in other places.
Nevertheless, we can see some rays of light at the end of the tunnel when the Government has announced plans and schedules for mass vaccination. While waiting for the restarting of tourism related activities, we should be looking atvibrant and strategic directionsto plan to restart our tourism industry.
I took the opportunity to congratulate Dato Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri and her team at Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) for the launching of the National Tourism Policy 2020-2030 in December last year.
I believe this policy is very timely to ensure that the government policies and strategies will continue to help the tourism industry and uplift Malaysia as the preferred tourism destination at the global level.
In line with our Tourism Aspirations under the Sarawak Economic Action Council (SEAC), we are sharing similar goals to boost our brand as one of the leading and preferred eco-tourism destination in this region. We aspire that “By 2030, Sarawak will be a leading destination for eco-tourism and business events in ASEAN Region driven by empowered communities to conserve heritage, culture and biodiversity and to promote investment and development through responsible actions”. Together, we can actally attain the common goal to drive more economic growth and create more employment opportunities for the local communities.
We fully support the implementation of six main transformation strategies in the National Tourism Policy which include strengthening Governance Capacity, Create Special Tourism Investment Zones, Embrace Smart Tourism, Enhance Demand Sophistication, Practise Sustainable and Responsible Tourism and Upskill Human Capital.
Such strategies can help to articulate strong strategic directions and a comprehensive action plans for the tourism industry to spur both immediate and long-term growth.
In line with the National Tourism Policy 2020-2030, my Ministry is also actively executing our own tourism master plans and policies while establishing product development. The tourism master plans and policies consist of SEAC – Tourism Aspirations, 3rd Sarawak Tourism Master Plan 2021-2035, andmany Regional Development Authorities Plans. All these new policies and directions will continue to steer tourism sector in a more structure and community-based way forward.
Apart from tourism master plans and policies, my Ministry had implemented short-term support for recovery of the tourism, arts and culture industry with the support and active engagement with various tourism industry players and stakeholders to revive the State tourism sector.
The short-term recovery measures include building confidence to travel through stringent SOPs endorsed by the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), Discounted Travel Incentivesthrough Sia Sitok Campaign to promote domestic intra-state travel, helping the hotel industry by designating them as quarantine centres, incentives to encourage home grown business events, continuous capacity building and research to prepare for the return of tourists.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, we need to develop our digital technology-based tourism industry which can ensured the success of our rehabilitation plans for our tourism industry. The utilization of Sarawak Travel App as part of our Sarawak Tourism Promotion Campaign is vital as it can be a great promotion and marketing tool for our tourism.
By enhancing the Sarawak Travel App under the 12th Malaysia Plan, we can integrate it as an e-commerce platform to enable tour agencies to promote and sell their tour packages online. This will provide a convenient one-stop service for tourist to search info on places and available tour packages for purchase. Ultimately, this boils down in providing a secure and reliable digital platform for our industry players to boost their income and revive the tourism industry.
A comprehensive visitor data to Sarawak is also important for proper tourism contribution assessment and effective tourism policy formulation. Among other digital initiatives planned include S-MM2H online application, Digital Visitors Landing App, digitalization of Sarawak Tourism Satellite Account (STSA) and Digital Visitor Tracking App.
In 2020, the number of visitor arrivals to Sarawak had dropped 74% to 1,199,872 as compared to the corresponding period in 2019 (4,662,419) due to the pandemic of Covid-19. The tourism receipt had declined 75% to RM2.88 billion as compared to the same corresponding period in 2019.
The pandemic itself had caused the tourism industry to suffer an estimated total loss of RM8.69 billion. Nevertheless, I believe that we still can revive our tourism industry by boosting the domestic tourism activities with our "Sia Sitok Sarawak Tour Package". It will enhance the people's confidence to travel domestically while the borders are still closed.
Syukur alhamdullilah, such initiatives had indeed generated good responses and it was extended to 31st March 2021. As of today, the Sia Sitok campaign has generated more than RM 1,569,026.00 in sales for 941 tour packages and 5,668 pax.
My Ministry and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) will continue Sia Sitok in its version 2.0 where 60 packages will be launched by March 2021. The wider range of domestic tour packages will create more interest among its locals to travel widely in our state while benefiting the tour industry as a whole.
With the availability of Covid-19 vaccination, domestic travel within Malaysia and Sarawak is expected to slowly recover in the second half of 2021 anticipating a total visitor arrival of 1.1 million with an estimated tourism receipt of RM2.64 billion receipt. However, this estimated target will depend very much on the Covid-19 global situation.
The tourism industry is an important key contributor to the nation’s economic growth. I hope that with the introduction of PENJANA Tourism Financing (PTF) as part of the Government’s efforts to assist the tourism industry players during this COVID-19 pandemic. I would strongly encourage the tourism industry players to grab this golden opportunity to undertake the necessary investments to sustain your business through this PTF with no collaterals.
Therefore, my Ministry will continue working closely with the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to ensure that all our policies, directions and strategies will be in line with the National Tourism Policy and translatethem into viable opportunities and initiatives. We are especially excited that a few Special Tourism Investment Zones have been identified in Sarawak under the National Tourism Policy, namely, Lundu-Sematan and Miri-Kuala Sibuti-Niah. We hope that the Federal Governmnet will help to identify and facilitate tourism business initiatives and grants in these areas through public funding or public private partnership.
While implementing tourism development initiatives, we will ensure that tourism development is inclusive to involve community-based tourism. The local communities can participate in community-based tourism such as homestay, local hosts, craft and souvenirs to reap the benefits from tourism especially in raising their household income. We believe that the strategies we have planned are achievable and together we can do so much more.