The tourism industry’s challenge for next year will be to add more value to existing and upcoming services and products, the Sarawak Tourism Federation said.Its president Audry Wan Ullok said industry upgrades should be the priority, instead of different companies trying to undercut one another on prices.
“The year 2010 has been challenging, with little bit of hiccups here and there,” she said. “Nonetheless, I think overall the industry took challenges in its stride. There were some cost-cutting measures to keep businesses going, but looking ahead, the focus should be on better products and services, not more cuts”.
The year’s difficulties, she added, had less to do with the slight drop in foreign arrivals, and more on changing trends.Using the example of hotels, Audry, who’s family owns and runs Telang Usan Hotel in Kuching and Miri, talked about new competitors like the 360 Hotel chain and Batik Boutique Hotel.
Both companies have made their presence felt, she said.“Their entry have been great for the industry. They’ve introduced really good ideas and concepts. Some of the older, more established hotels have felt the pinch, but that’s okay because competition will bring good change”.
On travel agencies, Audry said it had been another tough year for the sector as it continued to face stiff competition from Internet services.“Nowadays, customers are very well informed. Again, we have to value add; with good services, customers will stick. For travel agents, it’s going to be much tougher to sell off-the-rack tour packages”.
Asked about well-received events in the past year, the federation president cited the Kuching City Hash Run as a highlight. “That was a great experience for industry players. It was the first time it had taken place in Sarawak, and managed to bring so many foreigners here”.On the Sarawak Tourism Board, she said it had done a good job.
She said the board’s chief executive Datuk Rashid Khan had promoted Sarawak well overseas, and gave credit to his efforts for bringing in two new international flight routes to the state.Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will begin flights between Kuching and South Korea and Japan early next year.
Rashid is the former commercial director with the national carrier. “I think he was instrumental in bringing in the MAS flights,” Audry said. “And of course the Board continues to run the Rainforest World Music Festival well, which remains the best event to spotlight Sarawak internationally”.