Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah emphasizes the importance of sustainability in tourism during the opening ceremony of the PATA Destination Experience Forum and Mart 2023, highlights Sarawak’s initiatives in promoting responsible tourism, and emphasizes the role of the tourism industry in driving economic growth and social inclusion.
TDN REPORT from Sarawak, Malaysia – Yang Berhormat Datuk Haji Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Minister for Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Sarawak & Minister for Youth, Sports and Entrepreneur Development Sarawak, officially inaugurated the PATA Destination Experience Forum and Mart 2023 with the theme “Sustainability in Action” at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) in Kuching City, Sarawak, Malaysia, yesterday 22 June 2023 (Thursday). During his opening speech, Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah highlighted the importance of sustainability in the tourism industry and emphasized the need for collective efforts to create a sustainable future.
The theme “Sustainability in Action” underscores the urgency to drive lasting change and shape the sustainable future we envision. Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah welcomed the distinguished participants and guests to Sarawak, acknowledging the role of the Sarawak Tourism Board as the host of the forum. He drew inspiration from Peter Drucker, the father of ‘Management Thinking,’ who famously said, “The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create it.”
To ensure sustainable tourism globally, governments must collaborate to bring this vision to life. Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah stressed the importance of implementing comprehensive strategies for sustainable tourism development. Such strategies require a broad mix of policies across governments to support long-term sustainability and competitiveness in the tourism economy.
While tourism can catalyze economic growth, generate employment opportunities, and contribute to conservation efforts, inadequate management can lead to negative impacts on local communities and the environment, ultimately leading to the decline of tourism in a destination. It is crucial for countries to align their tourism strategies with sustainability principles to maximize benefits and minimize negative consequences.
Achieving sustainable tourism involves protecting natural environments, wildlife, and resources during the development and management of tourism activities. It also entails providing authentic experiences for tourists and creating socio-economic benefits for local communities through employment and income opportunities. Recognizing the shift towards natural destinations, Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah emphasized that sustainable tourism plays a key role in preserving a destination’s natural beauty, minimizing waste, protecting cultural sites, and respecting local communities.
To achieve these goals, all stakeholders, including governments, local businesses, communities, and visitors, must actively collaborate. The Sustainable Tourism Index assesses countries’ commitment to promoting sustainable practices in tourism, serving as a framework for aligning strategies with sustainability goals.
Highlighting Sarawak’s commitment to sustainability, Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah mentioned that Sarawak became the first state in Malaysia to join the Global Destination Sustainability Index for Business Events and Tourism in 2021. He expressed the desire to work closely with international tourism bodies such as PATA and UNWTO to advance responsible tourism practices in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
While humanity has made significant progress in various areas, including health, transportation, energy, and food production, the Minister reminded attendees that our rapid adoption of new technologies often neglects the consequences on planetary health. The carbon footprint and resource-intensive economic models have led to global warming, environmental degradation, and the loss of biodiversity. To safeguard planetary health, collaboration across disciplines and borders is essential.
Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah emphasized that the tourism industry has witnessed new trends aligning with sustainability principles. These trends include hospitality developments in response to the pandemic, increased demand for healthy and organic products, personalized services, digitalization, and technology adoption. Sustainable tourism practices encompass all sectors, from transportation and water to energy consumption, natural resource protection, job creation, and poverty reduction.
The Sarawak Government has long recognized the importance of sustainability, particularly in the tourism sector. Post Covid-19 Development Strategy 2030 (PCDS 2030) and the Sarawak Tourism Master Plan 2035 have been put in place to drive long-term economic growth while promoting responsible tourism practices. The government actively encourages the public and visitors to adopt responsible tourism practices to preserve natural resources and support local communities.
Sarawak’s Sustainable Environment Blueprint embraces both Green and Blue Economies, focusing on climate change challenges and developing sustainable opportunities, including renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and eco-tourism. The Sarawak Government collaborates with international bodies, agencies, and institutions, including PATA, to promote sustainable tourism. The Journal of Responsible Tourism (JRTM), published in collaboration with Sarawak Research Society (SRS), further propagates the message of responsible tourism among practitioners and researchers.
Additionally, Sarawak has undertaken the “SARABOM” project to restore the state’s tropical rainforest, contributing to forest landscape restoration and expanding Malaysia’s forest cover. Benchmarking visits to Jeju UNESCO Global Geopark in Korea have also provided valuable lessons for geotourism development and promotion in Sarawak. The Sarawak Delta Geopark aims to generate economic benefits, create business and job opportunities, and foster a vibrant tourism industry.
Last but not least, the Minister highlighted Sarawak’s initiatives, such as the Rainforest World Music Festival, which promotes responsible tourism by implementing measures to reduce waste and carbon emissions. The Minister urged all industry players present at the forum to engage in dialogue and collaborate for the betterment of the tourism industry. With the participation of thought leaders and experienced professionals, the forum aims to imprint strong footprints of sustainability and responsible tourism not only in the region but also worldwide.
The tourism industry plays a crucial role in global economic growth, poverty reduction, job creation, and income generation. In Sarawak, tourism is a vital economic sector, and despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the region has witnessed positive recovery trends. The Sarawak Government expects visitor arrivals to exceed their target of 3 million in 2023, driven by both domestic and international tourism.
In conclusion, Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah expressed his appreciation to all the speakers, delegates, and guests for their presence and support. He emphasized that their commitment and participation in promoting sustainability and responsible tourism are essential for safeguarding planetary health for future generations. The PATA Destination Experience Forum and Mart 2023 provides an excellent opportunity for meaningful insights and collaborations that will shape the future of sustainable tourism.
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