Explore the insightful conversation with Mrs. Sharzede-Datu-HJ-Salleh-Askor, CEO of Sarawak Tourism Board, discussing the unique tourism profile of Sarawak, its focus on sustainability, and its plans for a balanced and resilient post-pandemic recovery.
During the recent PATA Destination Experience Forum & Expo 2023 in Kuching, Sarawak, TravelDailyNews Asia-Pacific had the opportunity to interview Mrs. Sharzede-Datu-HJ-Salleh-Askor, the CEO of Sarawak Tourism Board. The conversation revolved around the unique profile of tourism in Sarawak and the strategic role of sustainability in tourism development.
Situated on Borneo, the world’s third-largest island, Sarawak is Malaysia’s largest state. With its perennial summer and 34 indigenous ethnic groups, Sarawak offers visitors a vibrant mix of culture, adventure, nature, food, and festivals. A key differentiator for Sarawak is its authentic cultural heritage, which visitors can experience firsthand.
Sarawak has made sustainability a cornerstone of its tourism strategy. One of the ways the state showcases its commitment to sustainability is through the Rainforest World Music Festival. The festival, now in its 26th year, integrates sustainability practices throughout the event, such as discouraging the use of Styrofoam, promoting the use of recyclable cups, and introducing waste management programs. Through such events, Sarawak aims to raise awareness and understanding of sustainability among its international and local attendees.
Before the pandemic, Sarawak welcomed 4.66 million visitors, evenly split between foreigners and domestic tourists. Key visitor markets include Europe, Scandinavia, India, China, North Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East. Post-pandemic, the first half of 2023 saw a surge in foreign visitors, with the total visitor count reaching 1.6 million by May.
The Sarawak government has fully embraced the importance of sustainability. This commitment is evident in their use of renewable energy, hydrogen buses, and electric buses for public transport. Furthermore, to ensure the sustainability of its natural resources, Sarawak has introduced carrying capacity limits for its national parks and total protection areas.
Tourism is a significant contributor to Sarawak’s GDP. To ensure balanced growth, the state has launched a third master plan focusing on zoning to attract investment in new and improved hospitality and tourism areas. Despite the benefits of tourism, Mrs. Sharzede-Datu-HJ-Salleh-Askor emphasized the need for a balanced approach that respects the needs of the local population and mitigates the negative impacts of tourism.
As the tourism industry continues to recover post-pandemic, Sarawak is well-positioned to welcome visitors with its unique blend of cultural heritage and commitment to sustainability. This commitment is crucial not only for the state’s continued growth but also for the preservation of its natural beauty and cultural richness for future generations.
Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.