Exclusive interview: Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture cum Minister of Youth and Sport, Sarawak
According to the “regional satellite account” of Sarawak 2018, tourism generated RM11bn (€2.43bn) – 7.5% of Sarawak’s gross domestic product. We asked Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah to tell us more.
In 2018, 240,000 people were employed in Sarawak thanks to the tourism industry: 19.1% of Sarawak’s workforce.
Our focus is on culture, adventure, nature, food & festivals (CANFF). This also means tourist attractions are not only focused on urban areas but are extended to villages and rural areas. In terms of road connectivity, two projects will be completed this year, in the areas of Sibu and Kapit, opening up new areas along the Rejang River, where tourists will be able to explore the exquisite nature of these untouched rural areas. Then there is the Bintulu – Sungai Asap – Belaga link. Sungai Asap is a new settlement and Belaga is a big town in the area.
WE ARE BUILDING CONNECTIVITY AND ACCESSIBILITY FOR WHAT REMAINS FOR MANY A TRULY MYSTICAL DESTINATION
How is tourism infrastructure evolving?
Sarawak’s State government supports the upgrading of infrastructure such as the Pan Borneo Highway, Coastal Highway, museums and sports arenas. We are also dedicated to the upgrading and development of the internet in Sarawak to improve connectivity for tourists, developing the Sarawak Travel Application. We are continuing to build connectivity by seeking to attract new airlines and routes into Sarawak’s key airports.
An unprecedented number of new tourism projects are opening in the coming months and years. The 2nd largest Museum in Southeast Asia will open in Kuching at the end of 2020. Then there are the Sarawak Culture Museums, also in 2020; the Performing Arts Centre – to be completed within 2 years; the Santubong Archaeological and Wildlife Centre, the Beautification of Pangkalan Sapi, the upgrading of waterfront facilities; construction of a riverside walkway from Fort Margherita to the Darul- Hana Bridge; development of museums in Limbang; Tusan beach facilities; Sadong- Jaya mangrove tourism – a sanctuary for birds to migrate from Indo-China, with the gazetting of the area as a National Park; at the Niah Cave, there is extensive upgrading of the walkway from the river to the cave, along with the addition of bungee track and trails; and finally upgrading of Bako National Park and Semenggoh Nature Reserve’s facilities.
What if your “message” to travel professionals from around the world?
Our tourism products are very exotic for visitors from Europe and also the Middle East, because most have never seen “nature in the raw” such as what can be found in Sarawak. We are building connectivity and accessibility for what remains for many a truly mystical destination, with the focus on our “big five” – culture, adventure, nature, food & festivals.
Photo: Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture cum Minister of Youth and Sport, Sarawak