Facts & figures

Sarawak works to boost international tourism

2020 sees Sarawak heavily promoting its destinations to overseas source markets as part of the ongoing Visit Sarawak campaign, coupled with Visit Malaysia 2020.

The past year has seen 5.2% growth in inbound travellers to Sarawak, from 2018 to 2019, with an overall total of 4,662,419 visitors in the year. Around 2 m of these are foreigners. To get a better grasp of Sarawak’s inbound figures, it is important to note that a large part of the international figures quoted concern visitors from neighbouring countries – Brunei (1,296,017 visitors in 2019), Indonesia (418,461 in 2019), and the Philippines (63,238 in 2019). A number of these visits may thus have been visits to family and friends, or occasional business visits, rather than for leisure tourism. Unlike many other countries, Sarawak’s tourism infrastructure has gone from almost zero in the 1970s, to what it is today. In 1972, total tourist numbers for the entire state were 54,223.


An interesting market for Sarawak today is Singapore (traditionally a major source market for all of Malaysia). From 2018-19, the number of visitors from Singapore jumped by 7% from 43,734 to 46,812. Australia, another major source market for Sarawak, saw growth of 3.9% in visitor numbers in the year to 2019, with a total of 16,881 inbound travellers.

Over the past year, visitor numbers from key source markets in Europe, such as the UK, France and Germany remained relatively static, with a drop of around 4% in German visitors balanced out by a similar increase in visitors from France, while UK visitors, which by far make up the lion’s share of the European market, remained stable at 32,194 in 2019.

As figures tend to vary country by country from one year to another, it is interesting to look at broader trends over the past (almost) decade. From 2010 to 2019, overall inbound tourist arrivals grew by 42%, primarily buoyed by a growth in domestic travellers visiting the state. Over that time, there has also been remarkable growth in Indian visitors – from 16,533 to 26,791 – a rise of 62%. Singaporean visitor numbers were up by 21%, Germans +11.45% and most interestingly, the biggest growth for a European country came from France with a rise of 64% over the nine years, from 3,856 in 2010 to 6,325 in 2019. For its part, South Korea saw the biggest growth over the nine years from 2010 to last year, up by 103% from 5,327 in 2010 to 10,820 in 2019. Major growth has also come from Taiwan, up 47.7% to 10,004 visitors from 2010 to 2019.

Photo: Outdoor activities are a big driver for tourism in Sarawak