The 7th Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards 2015/2016 was held on Nov 24, 2017 at the Imperial Hotel. Celebrating the achievements of our fellow Sarawakians, the winners’ exhibitions illustrated why our beautiful State is worth visiting. Attending the awards ceremony was the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi (Dr) Abang Haji Abdul Rahman Zohari bin Tun Datuk Abang Haji Openg; the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Sarawak, Datu Ik Pahon Joyik; Assistant Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin and the President of the Sarawak Tourism Federation, Philip Yong.

Hundreds of people from several industries gathered at the black tie event to be present at the announcement of the winners of last year’s awards. The fifteen strong Main Committee oversaw the selection process, arduously reviewing all submissions. A positive problem to have, the talent on show for the 7th iteration of the Hornbill Awards made choosing the best of 21 categories difficult. Congratulations to the winners are in order, but we Sarawak’s growth on display at the Hornbill Awards must not simply leave the runners-up with consolation. With 182 nomination entries submitted for the different categories (an increase from the previous year’s 165!), the competition for the top places was close.

In Kim Shin’s p to the attendees, we were reminded of how and why the Hornbill Awards came about. The biannual programme first began in 2004 and is held by the State’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth & Sports. The purpose of these awards is to appreciate individuals’ and organisations’ contributions to Sarawak’s progressive tourism scene. In doing so, the unique work that is constantly generated from so many outlets is recognised on a wider platform.

The exposure to all the major players and upcoming start-ups subsequently show the innovative approach many of us have towards promoting the State. Through this, a culture of excellence is fostered as ideas are inspired from the exhibition of well-executed projects, whether that may be a kopitiam with a culinary twist, or a tourist guide revealing the best of Borneo. Ultimately, 48 | BorneoTalkJan-Mar2018 celebrating winners and having nominations are a means to appreciate the hard work Sarawakians put into their livelihood of delivering their best to their businesses. It is a platform for us to display our achievements and be acknowledged for our endeavour.

The continued efforts we’ve poured into improving Sarawak hasn’t gone unnoticed, as Kim Shin informed us of increased flights from Kuching to Langkawi (four times a week), Kuching to Pontianak (increased to daily occurrences) and Kuching to Shenzhen. Providing visitors more opportunities to visit Kuching is a high priority given the 9.8% increase of visitors from January to September last year when compared to the same period in 2016. 3.72 million foreigners stepped foot in Sarawak at this time and contributed RM6.9 billion to the tourism industry. The top ten arrivals were constituted of visitors from Brunei, United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Europe, Australia, Philippines, China and Singapore.

Datuk Lee advised the potential challenges facing the tourism industry from advancing were mainly connectivity and the impact of global and national policies. The issue of connectivity is constantly being ped, with three new international flights to commence this year 2018 (Sarawak to China, Bintulu to Singapore and Miri to Pontianak). There are hopes to continue increasing outbound flights to China this year.

Kim Shin ended his oration by urging all industry players to be innovative in their branding and promotion strategies. Understanding the temptation to continue with “business as usual”, the need to change our approach and adapt to an ever-changing world was imperative. Whilst we have shown resilience to the rapid advancement of technology and business practices, we must not rest on our laurels and continue to keep pace with modern standards.

We were privileged to witness well-choreographed cultural dancing. Performers seamlessly moved in sync whilst the technological visuals in the background augmented the performance. The blend of dancing styles from various Sarawakian cultures combined with the dynamic lights display was a testament to Sarawak’s ability to retain its cultures and use technology to improve them.

Our Chief Minister’s speech was centred on the digital economy. Abang Johari asserted that Sarawak’s natural beauty and attraction can be further developed through innovative technology. This would hopefully be demonstrated in the Cat Museum that is under renovation. Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah was in Vienna at the time, negotiating the return of Sarawakian artefacts back to Kuching, some of which would be housed in the museum.

Future policies will hopefully ensure that technology will be dominant and integral in our economy. Building on Kim Shin’s petition to keep pace with modern standards, we were reminded that our effectiveness of marketing can only be successful when taking a modern approach. Referring to social media specifically, attendees were advised to embrace community marketing since product advertisement can be easily disseminated once uploaded onto the internet.

Based on Philip Kotler’s theory of marketing, the constituents of community marketing are branding, advertising and promoting. As we are engaged with all these aspects anyway, the shift in the methodology of using social media to promote our goods and services is now the norm. However, as with all innovative technologies that open up new opportunities in conducting business, we were warned to stay updated with cybersecurity in the face of copyright infringement.

Abang Johari demonstrated his commitment to continue investing in the state to assist in reaching the vision where technology is prevalent in our economy. In order to allow as many Sarawakian citizens as possible to stay connected, plans to spend RM1 billion from the state fund to install high-speed internet in rural areas was met with applause from every corner of the room. Furthermore, an announcement was made by the Chief Minister to spend RM50 million to beautify the waterfront even further this year.

Abang Johari’s personal contribution to the continuing development was to authorise the project of Sarawak’s very own eWallet. A downloadable mobile app available on all devices, Sarawak Pay is a way for all citizens to pay for utility bills (such as Sarawak Energy and Kuching Water Board monthly bills) and local council assessment bills online. Approved in October 2017, there are plans to include more outlets under the cashless payment scheme.

Sarawak is being acknowledged by important visitors as having great potential for business ventures in the future; Steve Wozniak commented on this in his recent visit to Kuching at the 13th World Islamic Economic Forum. Famous film stars such as the revered Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan have visited for the Asian International Film & Festivals Awards in recent years. The attraction is there but there is still further work to be done.

The total number of awards was reduced from 39 to 21 (six special recognition awards were given). Established businesses and newcomers both took the chance to win the hearts of Kuching’s esteemed members on the judging panel to prove they had what it takes to push the industry boundaries further. Cheers and encouragement filled the air at every announcement; thank you to all involved for making Sarawak proud.

Once again, congratulations to all who won. We wish the rest of the nominees and newcomers the best of luck and not to lose sight of the focus of showing the greatness of Sarawak’s natural beauty and integration of technology in our society. Keep striving to be the very best in all you do, and we’ll see you next year, hopefully as a nominee!

Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth & Sports Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Sarawak, 2nd Floor, Bangunan Baitulmakmur, Medan Raya, Petra Jaya, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak. +6082 319 313 +6082 445 311

  • Category : Outstanding Media Contribution To The Tourism Industry “Ba Kelalan Sarawak”by David Hogan Jr, Malaysia Asia
  • Category : Outstanding Cottage Industry Contribution To The Tourism Industry Senia Anak Jugi - Bemban Handbag
  • Category : Outstanding Food Outlets
    • Café/Bistro – The Gold Mines Gastropub, Bintulu
    • Kopitiam – Yoyo Café, Bintulu
    • Hawker Centre – Top Spot Foodcourt, Kuching
    • Best Restaurant - Hilton Kuching Steak House
  • Category : Outstanding Tourist Guide
    • Regional Specific Tourists Guide (RSTG) - Teddy Bunga Nangoi Anak Robert Dais
    • Park Guide – Jenny Malang
  • Category : Outstanding Tourism Attraction And Events
    • Natural Attractions – Gunung Mulu National Park
    • Best Man-Made Attractions – Sarawak Cultural Village
    • Events & Festivals – Borneo International Kite Festival
  • Category : Outstanding Destination Management Company
    • Best and Creative Tourism Package – Ecogreen Holidays Sdn Bhd
    • Most Outstanding DMC (Domestic) – Borneo Exploration Tours & Travel Sdn Bhd
  • Category : Outstanding Hotel And Accommodation Provider
    • Best 5 Star Hotel/Resort – Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa
    • Best 4 Star Hotel/Resort – Grand Margherita Hotel Kuching
    • Best 3 Star Hotel/Resort – New World Suites Bintulu
    • Best 2 Star and below Hotel – Inn86 Bintulu
    • Best Homestay – Homestay RH. Benjamin Angki
  • Category : Special Recognition
    • International Destination Management Company (Asia Market) – See Mark Travel Services, Taipei
    • International Destination Management Company (Australia Market) – Flight Centre Group
    • International Destination Management Company (Europe Market) - Audley Travel
    • Airlines Operator - Air Asia Berhad
    • Most Outstanding DMC (International) – CPH Travel Agencies Sarawak
    • Emerging DMC – One Wayang Tours Sdn Bhd