KUCHING: Kuching City has been proposed as one of the destinations for the implementation of the Covid-19 Free Destination Pilot Project.
Malaysian Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister, Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, said on Monday the project was aimed at reviving the tourism industry and encouraging Malaysians, foreigners in Malaysia (such as expatriates and diplomatic officials) as well as foreign tourists to travel.
The other proposed destination for the project was Langkawi, she said.
“Kuching was selected because it was on the path of national integration and at the same time, it had enhanced unity in the country through tourism and culture,” she explained.
Nancy added that the selection of Kuching after Langkawi was also in line with efforts to elevate the city as one of the creative city networks at the Unesco and Asean levels under the gastronomy category in the near future.
“The diversity, heritage and ethnic-based dishes make Kuching the top choice to be appointed as a creative city in the gastronomy category,” she explained.
Nancy added that the state’s rich biodiversity with the existence of various herbal plants also added value to Kuching.
Explaining further the Covid-19 Free Destination Pilot Project, the minister said apart from Kuching and Langkawi, her ministry was also looking at how other tourist destinations across the country could be opened.
“As such, my ministry is seeking feedback from all state governments on the tourist attractions to be highlighted as key destinations. The project will be expanded in phases,” she said.
However, the opening of other destinations was subject to the level of security at the tourist locations, she said, adding that cooperation from the state government and local authorities was vital.
“We are not only looking at the safety of the locals but also at other acceptable market aspects with vaccinated tourists as the main target,” she explained.
Nancy added that the strategy of choosing one pilot location was also done by many other countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
“If these destinations can be opened successfully, then other destinations will be able to open in an orderly and safe manner.
“If we follow our hearts, we want to open up the whole country for tourism as this industry has suffered so long because of Covid-19.
“However, the current situation does not allow it. This pandemic restricts our movements not only from one district to another but also shuts down movements across states and international arrivals,” she said.
Nancy added her ministry was also in the process of identifying other suitable tourist destinations besides Kuching and Langkawi.
She said this project would be expanded to other major tourist destinations including resort islands such as Pulau Redang, Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Tioman.