Newspaper Day

Sarawak Tribune - Cartoon Uproar
Its Sunday, so its kind of a news reading and catch up with family day for me. However a certain notification today's Sarawak Tribune (5 Feb 2006) caught my attention. It seems that someone paid a heavy price for an 'accidental' publication of the said controversial cartoons on page 12 of the 4th Feb 2006 edition. I did buy the 4t Feb 2006 yesterday but the small print of the cartoon missed my attention as I was more concerned with Egypt's Ferry tragedy. It seems that Sarawak Tribune will be without one editor-on-duty.

New Straits Times

John Teo's article in Wavelength in the New Straits Times today touched on the state of tourism in Sarawak. It reads:

"I JUST came across a travel story on Madagascar. The very name conjures up everything enticingly romantic. Same goes for Zanzibar, the autonomous island-province in Tanzania.
I would like to think that is how foreigners react when Sarawak comes across, either in print or on their lips. It is a name that is ready-made for tourism, without the need for any hype or fancy advertising prop. Tourists will just beat a path to it, given the right conditions.

Yet it is safe to say the tourism industry in Sarawak is in a mini crisis of sorts. Despite millions of ringgit spent on promotion since the eighties, the returns — in terms of tourist arrivals after deducting the inflated cross-border statistics from Brunei and Indonesia — are dismal if not downright discouraging.

Resorts at Damai Beach near Kuching, on the Batang Ai lake, at the Pelagus rapids and in Mount Mulu National Park are more often empty than full. If not for spending by local holiday-makers, they would have closed shop long ago.

As if such dire circumstances facing tourism in Sarawak are not bad enough, the industry appears to have been relegated in importance in the State. At a time when a full Federal Minister is in charge of nothing else but tourism, the last Sarawak Cabinet reshuffle saw one State Minister in charge of finance, urban development and tourism.

An urgent review is called for to look into the real state of the Sarawak tourism industry and to devise new strategies to reinvigorate it. It calls for new thinking that will get away from the usual excuses given as to why Sarawak cannot or has not yet been a successful tourism player.

What strikes me about Madagascar and Zanzibar is that they are by no means easy or cheap places to get to — exactly the reasons often bandied about as Sarawak’s weakness as a tourist destinaion. Their infrastructures are predictably a far cry from what we have in Sarawak but the few luxury hotels there charge several hundred American dollars a night! They are obviously selling a certain cachet associated with the mystique their names conjure.

Sarawak clearly has a thing or two to learn from those far-away African destinations. It may well be that the hitherto elusive mass tourist market is not for Sarawak. Perhaps what is needed is a new mindset. Tourism promotion so far has meant little more than joining the global travel-fair circuit and the minor thrill of bagging some prizes for well-decorated pavilions.

This new mindset may entail extending the scope of tourism promotion to place emphasis on attracting investors in Sarawak’s tourism industry. It will be noticed that apart from the major spurt in hotel developments undertaken by the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation, new investments — particularly by foreigners — have been almost non-existent.

Attracting foreigners to invest a stake in Sarawak’s tourism industry will help ensure regional or even global players include the State in their promotion efforts. This can reinforce the State’s own very limited ability to promote itself world-wide.

For a start, the State Government may want to consider inviting investors to convert the priceless former Court House building facing the Sarawak River in Kuching into a boutique luxury hotel which can become a destination in its own right, much in the same mould as Singapore’s Raffles Hotel.It will help if some hype is generated about such a project and only serious investors who can not only bring in the money but the professional expertise and experience to help turn the State into an exclusive tourist destination worthy of its justifiably colourful name. Sarawak deserves nothing less."

Maybe that was why I was not quite enthusiatic in my last blog on the recently launched tourism strategy. John Teo has hit the nail on the head in several of the comments about the state of toursim here. Sample the number of tourists you get to see in Kuching with those in Kuala Lumpur, or Kota Kinabalu against the extensive 'tourism promotions' that we have unleashed be it here or in International Tourism Trade Fairs/Exhibitions. I'll agree with John that it just does not add up. More needs to be done and I hope the right people can come up with the right solutions for promoting Sarawak - and to succeed at it. Next year is Visit Malaysia Year 2007. Sarawak Tourism Board website to date is still under construction. We will be competing with the other States in the country. Online communities like PenangLive have started the race early. Several websites like Visit Malaysia (Canada) puts Sarawak images up front.

Let's see the development in the next few weeks. Like John, I love Sarawak and we Sarawakians have a lot to show and share with the rest of the world. The tourism economic sector has been identified as one of the main contributor to help Sarawak uplift its reliance on other depleting economic sectors like timber harvest - these natural resources will one day be gone.


Apai Salleh said…

Sarawak's primary industries are Oil, Timber, Agriculture, Manufacturing and a developing Legal and Financial Services Sector.

The priority is human development in Sarawak, and not really Tourism.That industry, i feel, should come last to Sarawak's industries.

Let us have the foreign business clients first and not turn Sarawak into a drug infested "Pattaya" or 2nd rate "Bali for Tourists".

After all, sapa ka bechawat enggau bengajat everytime a Tourist shows up.hehehehe
Apai Salleh said…
But then again,I could be wrong, and we probably would need to develop Tourism in Sarawak. We just have to be specific on what kind of tourism, a State like Sarawak could provide. Carry on, Desmond, surprising to see the Sarawak Tribune publish those cartoons.
Shame on the Sarawak Tribune!
Ok, that statement could be taken either way .. want to clarify .. shame on the Sarawak Tribune for creating a situation where the editor had to 'voluntarily' resign! Afterall, the editor was only allowing something to be reprinted .. the cartoons did not originate from the newspaper itself. The cartoons can found all over the place on the internet.

I believe strongly in the freedom of the press.
Miriguy said…
Wow.. that's an interesting article. Maybe it's true. We should be open minded and try to listen to other people's comment. As for me, I will try to accept constructive comments and not the type of comments that are given just for the sake of having comments. At least provide some solutions, right?
I am neutral in this matter.
BTW, Apai Salleh, aku bisi plan ka muka bisnes offer "One week stay in Long house in Sarawak". in my package, the ngajat is included. Hehe..
Minat jadi penari professional aku ka enda? :p
Apai: Those industries you mentioned are still the 'star' for the next few years. as your second comment mention, we have to find the 'right' tourists :)

Puteri: The editor-on-duty would be greatly missed. He seem to have a knack for Iban politics which makes Tribune a pleasant read, but it just takes one slip up :( Someone has to be sacrificed.

Miri Guy: Me too - trying my very best to be neutral....not to acidic nor alkaline :)
Miriguy said…
lol Desmond. That's good.