In conjunction with World Tourism Day 2021 on Sept 27, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MTAC) Sarawak organised a hybrid event titled “Sarawak Commitment to Responsible Tourism” at Imperial Hotel Kuching earlier today.
First-ever celebration of World Tourism Day in Sarawak
This year marks the first time Sarawak is celebrating this meaningful day. The event saw plenary presentations on diverse topics, in line with the world celebration’s theme of “Tourism for Inclusive Growth”, from key leaders in Sarawak and across the world’s tourism industry. The event also featured congratulatory messages for Sarawak by the International Tourism Community.
Celebration that positions Sarawak’s resilient tourism industry
Present to officiate the event, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak, Datuk Haji Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the theme of World Tourism Day in 2021, “Tourism for Inclusive Growth” was a timely message to the international tourism community and tourism sector in Sarawak.
“It is time to rethink, transform and safely restart tourism. With the right safeguards and responsible measures in place, I believe the tourism sector can rebound better and stronger,” he said.
Karim also mentioned that the last 18 months since movement control was enforced in Malaysia, MTAC Sarawak had not stopped working with Government agencies, tourism bodies, practitioners, and scholars to restart tourism activities in a responsible and sustainable manner.
“When the border is closed to international visitors, Sarawak continues to sustain domestic tourism through Sia Sitok Sarawak campaign,” he said.
Other measures that have been implemented to exhibit Sarawak’s resilient tourism industry are adding Sarawak into the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) in gastronomy; and branding Niah National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Although the result is not released yet, I applaud the effort of our stakeholders, including Government agencies and non-governmental organisations in driving Sarawak towards a sustainable and inclusive destination, and boost the tourism industry of the State.”
Sarawak’s Commitment to Responsible Tourism
Speaking at the plenary presentation, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) CEO Sharzede Datu Haji Salleh Askor said Responsible Tourism (RT) “…is a way forward in the future of tourism.” She also emphasised on STB’s commitment to making RT an integral part in the industry.
Sharzede said that since 2011, STB had been implementing Responsible Tourism-led initiatives such as waste management and greening initiatives during iconic events such as Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF).
In 2020, the Board engaged over 3,000 households from B40 homestays across Sarawak on sustainable waste management and soap-making. Sharzede added that by engaging the communities in these workshops, they would be able to generate sustainable income and become part of Sarawak’s ecotourism industry.
Kuching City as pilot project for Global Destination Sustainable Index (GDSI)
Business Events Sarawak CEO, Amelia Roziman presented on Sarawak’s recent undertaking in positioning Kuching in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDSI).
She pointed out that Sarawak was “World’s first from Malaysia” to undertake this project, among other 75 progressive destinations in the world.
This is in line with Sarawak’s Post-COVID-19 Development Strategy for Tourism, to brand Sarawak as a leading destination for ecotourism and sustainable business events.
Professorial Roundtable Discussion on Inclusive Tourism
Moderated Dr. Aaron Tham (Australia), the Professorial Roundtable Discussion featured esteemed professors in their respective tourism expertise such as Prof Hii Chang Kee (Sarawak), Prof Chang Hsuan Hsuan (Taiwan), Prof Joseph Cheer (Japan), and Prof David Hind (UK).
The 30-minute discussion featured each of these professors’ perspectives on inclusivity in tourism, according to their respective region. According to Prof Chang, inclusive growth should provide incredible opportunities to each stakeholder. Meanwhile, Prof Joseph mentioned that moving forward, events should be fully inclusive, and must take mobility as one of the considerations so that no member of the society would be discriminated.
Prof Hii, who is also the Permanent Secretary to Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak said: “Inclusive growth is to strike a balance between economic prosperity of a destination, and also non-economic aspects of social inclusivity and sustainable environment”. He went on to say that these measurement indicators had been outlined in the Sarawak Post-Covid-19 Development Strategies.
According to Hii, the future of tourism should not only be measured on the number of tourism arrivals, but how it also benefits the local community in terms of their household income, and the percentages of women participation in local tourism sector.
The hybrid event concluded with an official launch of the second issue of Journal of Responsible Tourism Management (JRTM) to the tourism stakeholders in Sarawak.
With that said, we would like to wish everyone a Happy World Tourism Day 2021!