KUCHING: Sarawak has all the ingredients needed to attract international events, which can help in the state’s post-pandemic economic recovery, says chief minister Abang Johari Openg.
He said the state provides an environment that has many of the key elements that events organisers look for in a destination.
“The first thing that people look for is safety, the destination must be secured,” he said during a special one-on-one chat with FMT on the sidelines of the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau’s “Meet In Malaysia @ Kuching” event.
“Number two is friendly people, people must feel comfortable in that particular area.
“And the third is, of course, the facilities must be of world class.
“These I think are the three factors that must be built if you want to get all these international people to come in.”
He added that language ability was also a key area to consider, to ensure foreigners are able to communicate comfortably with locals.
“In Sarawak, we are hospitable people, we are quite peaceful, and this is one of the pull factors for people to come in and have their events here.”
Sarawak’s priorities are not to attract the biggest events possible, he added. Instead, it wanted to target “medium-sized” meetings with about 300-400 participants.
“That (number) is just nice, and after that we will prepare packages, including post-conference packages, where participants can enjoy whatever (tourism) products we have,” he said, listing the Bako National Park, the Semenggoh Nature Reserve and cruises along the Kuching river as prime examples.
On plans to bolster the tourism sector, Abang Johari said his government was encouraging direct flights into the state and easing the procedures for entering Sarawak from abroad, such as not requiring travellers to fill out separate immigration forms when they transit in the peninsula.
Improving digital access and use is also important in uplifting the economy, tourism and business events industry, he said, adding that this is a key area his government was looking at.
“Sometimes (there are difficulties trying to) connect through fibre optic cables. This will take time due to the sheer size of Sarawak.
“Another technology that is available involves a floating device that transmits data to the ground. We are exploring that sort of infrastructure now,” he said, adding that people needed to be trained to introduce this sort of technology.
“This will be done through what we call the ‘Digital Village’, managed by TEGAS (Tabung Ekonomi Gagasan Anak Sarawak). This training system is linked to our various regional hubs.”
Earlier at the event, the chief minister launched Kuching as a member of the Hybrid City Alliance, a global network which offers international event organisers solutions when organising events across numerous cities.
Other parts of Malaysia that are part of this alliance include Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu.