KUCHING – Stepping into the new year, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) will be participating in the MATKA Nordic Fair, happening from 19th to 22nd January 2022 at the Messukeskus Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre in Finland, and also be part of Tourism Malaysia’s Nordic Roadshow in Sweden, Norway and Denmark from January 24th to January 26th 2023.
STB’s participation is MATKA 2023, which is the biggest travel industry fair in Northern Europe and the Baltic region, is a collaborative effort with Tourism Malaysia (TM) to strengthen Sarawak’s presence in the Nordic market, with emphasis on elements of conservation, sustainability and responsible tourism that is very much in line with STB’s aim to position Sarawak as a leading and preferred eco-tourism destination.
The highlight of Sarawak’s participation in the fair will be the launch of its destination video, “A Journey Awaits” on the first day of the fair and the presentation on Sarawak on the second day, which is expected to create an impact in terms of branding Sarawak’s responsible tourism agenda.
Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia with a low-density population of 2.9 million people in 2020, is home to one of the largest pristine rainforests in the world with 31 ethnic groups living harmoniously together against a backdrop of age-old heritage juxtaposed with elements of modernity, making Sarawak a destination blessed with Culture, Adventure, Nature, Food and Festivals unlike anywhere else.
Today, many tourist destinations have adopted the principles of responsible tourism in their management and tourism practices, and Sarawak is no exception. Taking environmental issues seriously, Sarawak tourism players incorporate elements of waste management, energy conservation and environmental education into their tours to ensure travellers not only are sight-seeing but also contributing to the conservation of Sarawak’s attractions for generations to come. By staying in rural homestays or purchasing trinkets from street vendors, travellers help inject money directly into the local economy.
With responsible tourism as its pillar, Sarawak is not only an attractive tourist attraction but most importantly, it is a place where one can enjoy the best that nature, adventure, culture, food and also festivals can offer responsibly. Responsible tourism is also about making a positive impact on the places that we visit – by being responsible for the environment, people, as well as tangible and intangible heritage. It means creating awareness and helping in the conservation of old monuments, the forest, water, and other resources belonging to a destination.
Sarawak tourism players adapt eco-friendly practices in their tourism products, such as encouraging bicycle-rides in rural areas or enjoy bird-watching in Sarawak’s lush rainforests. The tourism players promote homestays, encourage consumption of local food, and highlight local handicrafts and arts in their effort of sustaining the local way of life for generations to come. Such community-based tourism can be found in areas such as Nanga Sumpa in Batang Ai where travellers can gain an insight into the lifestyle of the various tribes of Sarawak. These efforts can generate economy for its residents, especially those from lower-income groups.
The biodiversity of Sarawak’s rainforests makes it the perfect home to a large variety of flora and fauna, many of which are endemic to the land and Sarawak has taken great steps in ensuring the flora and fauna of Sarawak remains protected. One key area is the conservation of the Bornean orangutan, the largest tree-climbing mammal in the world. Known as one of the three species of orangutans, the Bornean orangutan belongs to the only genus of great apes native to Asia, Pongo pygmaeus.
Sarawak’s biggest and renowned orangutan rehabilitation centre, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre which is only 20km from Kuching City, is by far the biggest orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sarawak. It was established as a sanctuary for orangutans who were injured, orphaned, or being held captive as illegal pets. Currently, the centre serves as a habitat for the orangutans and also a place for visitors to learn about this endangered rare species. This wildlife centre has a thriving population of healthy adolescent and young adult semi-wild orangutans. Semenggoh Nature Reserve is also a habitat for rare flora and fauna, including the giant squirrel, pigmy squirrel, gibbons, and a variety of birds, making the nature reserve an ideal place for nature lovers.
Sarawak is also a destination blessed with a list of calming waterfalls, all in different shapes, sizes, widths and depths. Regardless of their unique individual forms, these waterfalls with their mesmerising views are the best spots for a great weekend spent to recharge and engage in fun activities with friends and families. One notable location is the Bronang Waterfall that can be found in Bau (which is located about 40 minutes from the capital city of Kuching) upstream Adis River. Meanwhile, the Keluan Waterfalls at Long San, Ulu Baram in northern Sarawak (also famously known as the Three Sisters) is a “once seen, never forgotten” experience. The side-to-side waterfalls plunge into an enormous basin that is surrounded by lush rainforests creating a stunning view, making the hike to the waterfall worthwhile.
With responsible tourism and sustainability at the forefront of Sarawak’s travel industry, it is vital for STB in ensuring the sustainability of the community and to achieve an equilibrium within the tourism ecosystem. Sustainable and responsible tourism practices must be embedded in the industry’s daily practices, and is also infused as a social and environmental strategy. As post-pandemic traveller’s lifestyles, perspective and behaviours have changed, it is vital for Sarawak’s tourism industry to fulfil the evolving needs of the new travel trends for a greater recovery route.