Sarawak to woo local tourists

21 May 2020 / 13:21 H.

PETALING JAYA: Sarawak has slashed its tourist arrivals target by more than half and will now focus on wooing domestic travellers, as the state shifts its strategy in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

State Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the state is looking at only 2.4 million visitor arrivals this year, a drop of 52% from its previous target of five million, under the Visit Sarawak Campaign 2020.

“However, if the pandemic situation persists, we can expect tourist arrivals to fall by 60% (to two million) or even 65% (to 1.75 million) in a worst case scenario,” he told theSun in an email interview.

According to Abdul Karim, the estimated target was based on United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimates that international tourist arrivals worldwide this year could fall by as much as 30%.

The International Air Transport Association had also predicted international and domestic visitor arrivals could fall by 65%.

“We also took into account the widespread impact of the pandemic on all sectors globally and the suspension of flights, with more than 90% of our visitors coming in by air,” Abdul Karim said.

“In addition, the Covid-19 outbreak has caused unemployment and recession, among others, which will affect travel demand,” he said, while noting it could take up to three years for tourist arrivals to return to pre-Covid-19 levels.

Abdul Karim, however, was unable to provide a projection for visitor arrivals for 2021 due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, saying that the state’s forecast would be done on a quarterly basis until the situation stabilises.

He said with international tourist arrivals expected to remain low post-pandemic, Sarawak would be focusing on the Asean and domestic markets.

“We are narrowing our focus to key markets, to be more integrated but achievable post-Covid-19,” he said, adding that the state would be participating in domestic and regional marketing initiatives for this purpose.

“Domestic travel will play a huge role during this recovery. Hence, the reason for realigning our marketing strategy. Digital marketing will be the core approach to reach out to both domestic and Asean markets,” he said.

“It is important for local operators, airlines and hotels to capture the attention of domestic travellers with creative marketing strategies.”

Abdul Karim added that with travel unlikely to be a priority due to safety and health concerns, Sarawak would place more focus on increasing destination visibility through digital platforms, and will connect with consumers and create confidence among partners and travellers.

“We need to leverage on digital marketing to create ripple effect messages and remind travellers that Sarawak is there, waiting to be explored.”

Abdul Karim said in the meantime, before travelling is allowed, the state would conduct product audits to improve standards and quality, and offer promotions to tourists.

This includes creative packages, new tourism infrastructure and facilities, and identifying other “wow” factors to push for arrivals.

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Sarawak to woo local tourists

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