Sunday, 28 February 2021

Sharing the optimism on our do­mes­tic trav­els within Malaysia that should slowly re­cover in sec­ond half of 2021

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.

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