by Justin Yap,
Considering that Sarawak will see more tourism activities plus contributions from the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) hopes to see more funds allocated for the tourism arm in the next 2012 Budget talk.
Under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP), the state government had allocated five-year RM30 million fund for STB to cover all the tourism activities as well as its operation cost. With RM6 million a year, STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan highlighted that its an almost ‘impossible’ challenge.
He further pointed out that if Sarawak tourism is an economic sector that generates so much revenue for the state, then the government shouldn’t be reducing the budget from the past average of RM40 million. “As the Tourism and Heritage Ministry’s promotional and marketing arm, we are covering every part of the state’s advertising and promotion activities and that requires funding.”
STB estimated that it required nothing less than RM8 million a year to operate at minimum cost. However, if there are more allocations given, it (STB) could be more innovative and allocate funds for other integral areas.
“I am not giving up and I will be pursing this matter,” stressed Rashid.
Due to the lack of funds, STB has had to take the initiative to generate revenue by itself to support its various ongoing programmes. “We have been pushing the funding issues and have already appealed for RM1 million in extra funding from the cabinet last year, which was granted.
“In order to receive funding, the recipient has to justify what it is for and show positive results for the programmes undertaken with the funding. For the first six months of the year STB has been making positive progress and has implemented cost cutting and saving measures, avoided wastage and been very proactive to ensure the success of the programmes,” he added.
He highlighted that the Sabah Tourism Board on the other hand was getting RM25 million in funding allocation yearly. Given the fact that Sabah did not have such a wide industrial area and on the other hand Sarawak had a successful SCORE project, he questioned the rationale of more focus being given to Sabah .
“From the tourism perspective, the focus on energy should also relate to tourism as it is the fastest growing sector of the economy. There are many possibilities how the tourism business can tap into the growing energy industry in the state.
“Most people are looking at the Bakun Hydroelectric project to generate new economic activities for them. The artificial lake itself can be transformed into a tourism business sector if the right creative ideas are implemented,” he explained.
Rashid also pointed out that events that were held in Sarawak should be managed properly. “The annually held Sarawak Regatta which is run by the resident office is one such event that should be run in a more professional manner. It would do much better if it was handled by a professional event management company and not by civil servants.”
“STB is studying numerous local events and looking at the possibility of transforming them into international events. It is a mammoth task as funding again plays a vital role on whether it will be viable. As a non-profit organisation STB’s role is to re-channel funding into the state to improve the quality of tourism event in the state. It is an ongoing challenge for improvement,” he added.