Borneo’s most successful international event, the “Rainforest International Music Festival” was hosted for its 18th edition in the Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching. Over the years, the event has turned into a driver for tourism in Sarawak, bringing recognition across the world to Borneo’s Northwestern tip.
According to Sarawak Minister of Tourism, Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, the Rainforest Festival wants now to enlarge its audience to new targets. “The festival remains of course a major attraction for music and culture lovers. However we also want to attract more families. This is why we decided to integrate this year a special event about kids’ litterature. And we also improved our handicraft section with more local craftsmen to show the skills and the cultural diversity of Borneo ethnics”, highlighed the Minister.
The Rainforest International Music Festival is indeed turning into a strong incentive for younger generations to reconnect with their roots. “Handicraft but also the dances workshops, the presence of Sarawakian musicians in each festival are ways to transfer an ancestral knowledge to these younger generations”, told Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.
There is still a need to use now the Festival for the promotion of the entire Borneo Island, an appealing name around world, which is unfortunately not so well promoted by tourism authorities. “We are now deepening our cultural relations with other States in the region. We already have strong cooperation with Sabah and Brunei as well as West Kalimantan in Indonesia. We now look at more relations with East and South Kalimantan provinces”, said the Minister. Borneo packages are now sold including Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei.
Sarawak wants to be perceived as the cultural hub for the region and is increasing its promotion for its numerous festivals; the Miri Jazz Festival is another big hit for the State. “We turned oru traditional Dragon Boat competition into a truly international event. And we feel extremely pleased to be the hosted venue for the ASEAN Film Festival, which takes place every two years. We received this year Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh, who turned into excellent ambassadors for Sarawak”, told Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.
They are some priorities for the State to tackle to further improve its appeal. The Minister acknowledges that the Sarawak Cultural Village needs an overhaul and a US$ 3 million budget has been assigned for that purpose. There is also a necessity to improve services such as banking and international ATM on-site; roads are being also enlarged to Kuching.
“Connectivity is a huge task and we still lack international flights to link Kuching to the world. We recently express our interest to take over MASwing, Malaysia Airlines subsidiary for Borneo services. The Federal Government has no objection to the take-over”, said the Minister. The future reshaped airline would then serve more international destinations (story to be soon posted over MASwing).
Sarawak is still optimistic for the year 2015, despite weakening demand from China. “We receive 4.5 million tourists from both Malaysia and the world. We are lloking at 4.8 to 5 million tourists this year”, added a confident Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.