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Sarawak wins the “Olympic Games” of cultural heritage

ICOMOS Malaysia
ICOMOS Malaysia, the Malaysian national committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites together with Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah (centre) to announce that Sarawak is the first Malaysian state to host the prestigious ICOMOS GA2026.

Sarawak gears up to host the 22nd ICOMOS Triennial General Assembly in 2026, attracting over 2,000 cultural heritage professionals. The event aims to foster discussions on heritage conservation, peace, and sustainability while providing significant economic benefits to the region.

KUCHING – Sarawak is on a winning streak this year after scoring another international business event hailed as the “Olympic Games” of the global cultural calendar — the 22nd ICOMOS Triennial General Assembly 2026 (ICOMOS GA2026) with Kuching as the host city.

ICOMOS Malaysia, the Malaysian national committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, will host ICOMOS GA2026 between 17-24 October 2026 with at least 2,000 cultural heritage experts and professionals from over 130 countries participating in meetings and scientific symposiums, social events and workshops, and technical visits to significant cultural and natural heritage sites in Kuching and Sarawak and other parts of Malaysia.

With turbulent changes taking place in the world today, from conflicts and war to natural disasters and climate change, ICOMOS GA2026 will design its scientific symposium around the theme ‘Living Heritage: Respect – Enhance – Accept – Partnership’ to promote the positive role of heritage conservation in supporting and promoting peace, respect, inclusivity and sustainability.

Sarawak is home to a wide variety of ethnicities, cultures and traditions that give our destination a unique and powerful identity therefore, preserving cultural heritage sites and buildings is essential for maintaining our connection to history, culture and community. However, with rapid urbanisation and modernisation, it becomes challenging to balance development and cultural conservation”, said The Honourable Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Sarawak’s Minister for Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts. “The Sarawak Government is very proud to collaborate with ICOMOS Malaysia and deliver positive social, cultural and economic benefits through the event, in line with Sarawak’s Post Covid-19 Development Strategy 2030 and Malaysia’s commitment towards the protection and management of cultural heritage.”

ICOMOS Malaysia President, Tiong Kian Boon stated that hosting the 22nd ICOMOS GA2026 in Kuching is a huge vote of confidence in ICOMOS Malaysia by the Sarawak Government and an enormous undertaking for the national committee.

It is the national committee’s dream for ICOMOS GA2026 to leave a lasting legacy of cultural interpretation and advocacy par excellence moving forward,” said Tiong Kian Boon. “We foresee delegates becoming advocates for the amazing experiences that Sarawak and Malaysia’s cultural heritage offers. Such a global event will draw a high economic impact and wide-ranging benefits for future cultural tourism. We hope that ICOMOS GA2026 will highlight the importance of heritage as a tourism driver in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.”

In terms of economic value, the event is expected to secure at least 16.3 million in total economic impact and a direct delegate expenditure of RM8.9 million, earning RM 984,000 in taxes. Meanwhile, 1,301 job opportunities will be made for the local community.

ICOMOS Malaysia Deputy President, Faisal Abdul Rahman, said “ICOMOS GA2026 aligns closely with the Malaysian government’s commitment towards the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in the protection and management of cultural heritage; particularly of the 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country – with many more new nominations on the way. GA2026 is an opportunity to highlight to an international audience the significant achievements of Malaysia and Sarawak, in cultural heritage management as well as the role of the cultural heritage sector in the nation’s economic growth.”

Since launching the state-level business events campaign, Tribe Legacy Sarawak, in 2020 we are initiating more collaborations that lead to greater benefits for the industry and beyond,” expressed Amelia Roziman, BESarawak’s CEO. “The campaign emphasises how collaborations can add greater value to business events. In the case of ICOMOS GA2026, we collaborated with Sarawak Government Ministries and Agencies and the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau to bring this significant event to our destination. Our hope is to establish a legacy where Sarawak becomes the central hub for culture and heritage conservation in the country.”

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Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.