Recently I have expressed optimism on our domestic travels within Malaysia that should slowly recover in the second half of this year. We are also anticipating the visitor’s arrival to each 1.1 million with the estimated tourism receipt amounting to RM2.64 billion and this partly due to the availability of Covid-19 vaccines.
In projecting this, however, we acknowledged that such target would very much depend on the global Covid-19 situation. While waiting for the restart of tourism-related activities, together we should be looking at having vibrant and strategic directions for our tourism industry. In line with our Tourism Aspirations under Sarawak Economic Action Council (SEAC), we hope that by 2030, Sarawak would be a leading destination for eco-tourism and business events in Asean.
Through the ministry, we have undertaken short-term recovery measures that include building confidence to travel through stringent standard operating procedures (SOP) endorsed by our State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC). We were successful in running the discounted travel incentives through the ‘Sia Sitok Campaign’ in 2020, aimed at promoting domestic intra-state travels among the local folk.
I have further mentioned that the campaign had generated good response, in which it had generated RM1,569,026 in sales for 941 tour packages, with 5,668 people havng grabbed the holiday offers – to accommodate more requests, the travelling period for the campaign had been extended to this March 31.
My ministry and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) would continue the ‘Sia Sitok’ campaign in its version 2.0, where 60 more packages would be launched soon offering a wider range of domestic tour packages set to create more interest among the locals to travel widely in our state – benefitting the tour industry as a whole.”
I have highlighted the tourism industry as a key contributor to the nation’s economic growth and therefore, he welcomed the introduction of Penjana Tourism Financing (PTF) by the federal Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) as part of the government’s efforts in assisting tourism industry players during the present Covid-19 pandemic.
I would strongly encourage the tourism industry players to grab this golden opportunity to undertake the necessary investments to sustain their business through this PTF, with no collateral. The state government, through my ministry, had supported local tourism industry players throughout the Covid-19 period through the channelling of millions of ringgit via various funding and assistance programmes.
To say there’s been not much effort, financial or other assistance meant to lessen the burden shouldered by our tourism trade practitioners throughout the past 12 months, is an understatement. It is also unfair to describe the alleged situation ‘a tragedy and a lack of initiative, foresight and concern’ for the industry, which had been instrumental in bringing tourism revenues directly and indirectly to the government of the day.
I have also said the state government had spent billions of ringgit in helping local folk through its ‘Sarawakku Sayang Special Assistance’ (BKSS) introduced last year, with direct beneficiaries having included those in the tourism and hospitality industry. In this regard, the financial support and assistance had, as at August 2020, reached 788,543 people – covering those working in all economic sectors.
On Aug 24 last year, the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) under our Chief Minister’s Department disclosed that funds amounting to RM319.92 million had been allocated for special aid and assistance programmes meant for our folks in the B40 group. For the record, our BKSS 1.0 was introduced by our Chief Minister on March 23 last year and was aimed at helping those in the medium-income groups recover as well as regain their momentum in uplifting their livelihood.
Initially, the BKSS initiatives started with RM1.15 billion worth of allocations, but by the end of 2020, the funds had breached the RM2.55-billion mark. Under BKSS 2.0 which was announced on April last year, the value was at RM1.1 billion – with special attention given to struggling businessmen and traders.
Even special grants were given to registered tour guides and national park guides who were affected by the pandemic. The state government had allocated (each of the guides) a one-off RM1,500 cash assistance, with the total amounting RM387,000; while a RM500 oneoff cash aid was given to each of the 199 owners of ‘penambang’ (traditional chartered boats) registered under Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB). On top of that, a one-off cash aid of RM600 was also given to each of 959 operators of ‘van penumpang’ (chartered passenger van), 1,976 taxi owners and 739 operators of school buses and vans registered in Sarawak.
The total amount of assistance given out was RM2.2 million, and it was given by the state government because it was aware of the loss of income incurred by this group who had been providing transportation services rendered to locals and also visitors to the state.
In addition to that, my ministry had also helped the local hotel industry by appointing hotel establishments as Covid-19 quarantine centres for people coming into Kuching from other states since the start of the pandemic. This has helped the local hoteliers sustain their business and keeping their workforce throughout the pandemic period.