SARAWAK is capitalising on its unique attractions to woo tourism dollars
from the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions sector, said
Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit.
Sarawak’s assets and heritage have a natural advantage over Kuala
Lumpur. For example, meetings on tropical peat, tribal tattoos or even
gatherings of Foochows,” he told Business Times in an interview.
In 2009, Malaysia welcomed 1.18 million business travellers who spent
RM9.9 billion in flight tickets, hotel rooms, taxis and train fares, and
for dining and shopping.
Business travellers make up 5 per
cent of total tourist arrivals, but the RM10 billion they spend in
Malaysia makes up 19 per cent of total tourism receipts.
When asked to comment on a Netherlands-based environment activist group
claiming that the expansion of oil palm plantations on peatland in
Sarawak is based on faulty science, Mamit replied, “It is these kind of
misunderstandings and mistaken perception of tropical peat that fuels
the need for a more effective communication platform.
recently won the bid to host the International Peat Congress (IPC) in
2016. It will be the first time an international gathering on peat soil
science will be held in Asia.
“Here in the tropics, peatland is
used as a planting medium for agriculture. Its content and usage is
very much different from that in cold countries like the Netherlands
where temperate peat is harvested for horticulture and exported as peat
moss,” he said.
“Some European countries, like Ireland, harvest it and burn it to generate electricity,” he added.
“We see the IPC 2016 as a good platform to disseminate the facts and
field information on the development and conservation of tropical peat,”
In its website, the European environment activist
grouping claimed that much of the expansion of oil palm plantations in
Sarawak will be at the cost of forests and further endangerment of
threatened species such as the orangutans.
To this, Mamit
referred to Sarawak Forestry’s recent declaration that Sebuyau and
Sedilu, covering 20,000ha and 5,000ha respectively, are now officially
homes for orangutans.
Studies show there are about 2,500 orangutans in the wild in Sarawak. With the two new additions, Mamit said the six orangutan sanctuaries in Sarawak will boost eco-tourism activities.
The environment activist grouping also claimed that Malaysian Palm Oil
Board (MPOB) and Sarawak’s Tropical Peat Research Laboratory (TPRL) are
carrying out pseudo scientific research in a desperate effort to
justify the destruction of around a million hectares of peat swamp for
palm oil production.
Mamit responded that the credibility of
scientific researches is on the methodologies and he has utmost
confidence that MPOB and TPRL’s works will be able to withstand peer
In a separate interview, Miri Member of Parliament
Datuk Seri Peter Chin concurred with Mamit that the environment
activist group’s claim that MPOB and TPRL’s peat experiments are being
paid by oil palm planters, is factually wrong.
“It’s not true,
it is factually wrong. The RM40 million allocated for peat research
comes under the 9th Malaysia Plan (2006-2010). It is not funded by oil
palm planters,” he said.
When Chin was still helming the
Plantation Industry and Commodities Ministry from 2004 to 2009, he was
responsible for spearheading initiatives to facilitate peat soil
research. He is now Energy, Green Technology and Water minister.
“How can it be said that research work being carried out by MPOB and
TPRL are funded by the industry and therefore biased?” Chin questioned.
“Peat soil research is of national interest and therefore, funded by
the government. The experiments being carried out by MPOB and TPRL are
adhering to international protocols and subjected to peer reviews,” he
When asked why the activists are so quick and vehement
in their criticism of the credible work being carried out by MPOB and
TPRL scientists, Chin replied, “they may have their own agenda. Whatever
these environment activists want to lobby, the truth on carbon
emissions and sequestration shall prevail.
“Science is a fact-finding process. Let us not succumb to or be misled by fear of the unknown,” Chin added.
In a separate interview, Sarawak Convention bureau chairman Datuk Seri
Dr Muhammad Leo Michael Toyad said it is important for Sarawak to
expand its tourism industry further as it draws close to a million
business visitors a year.
They collectively contribute around
RM50 million to Sarawak’s economy. Tourism is the state’s third-largest
employer, supporting one in every 10 jobs. “Business travellers spend
three times more than an average leisure visitor,” he said.
Muhammad Leo then highlighted the Anak Sarawak Award ceremony where
associations and influential individuals who won bids for new national
or international conventions are honoured for their commitment and
dedication to bring in businesses to Sarawak.
“Anak Sarawak Award 2010” themed Night of the Pharaohs – Victory Feast,
was recently held at the Borneo Convention Centre in Kuching.
This year, Muhammad Leo said, there will be 42 new conventions to be
held in Kuching. “We expect some 25,000 delegates to fly in and land an
economic impact of about RM50 million,” he said.