Since the onset of the pandemic, the tourism industry needs to shift its mindset from the old ways of connecting people and places to embracing digitalization. By setting new digital strategies and leveraging on technology such as social media platforms, search and geolocation technologies enable better reach to travelers seeking for their next adventure more effectively.
With a funding of up to RM5,000 per applicant, the Sarawak Tourism Online Ecosystem Fund (STOEF) initiative by Sarawak Tourism Board is an opportunity for tourism industry players to build their digital presence, increase Sarawak’s visibility online and be more competitive and relevant in the marketplace. The first phase of the STOEF programme in 2020 saw 45 successful participants use the fund towards improving their digital presence and currently, 50% of the total budget allocation has been taken up.
For JC Chua, founder and director of Paradesa Borneo, a company that specializes in cycling day tours based in Kuching since 2013, receiving the STOEF has helped elevate his company’s website, making it load faster and become more mobile friendly, which provides easier navigation, encourages visitors especially from untapped markets to browse the site longer and increases their chance to select their preferred tour activity listed on the website.
“I believe that today, expanding our digital footprint is a way forward to reach out to our target audience. This year, we are looking at adding more pages to our website to drive more traffic in and see the full impact it brings once the borders reopen,” he added.
STB Chief Executive Officer, Puan Sharzede Datu Haji Salleh Askor underlines STB’s continuous efforts in finding ways and means to provide support, revive the affected tourism industry and play a role to help in improving the ecosystem in the tourism sector. “I am happy that the responses for these incentives and funds have been positive among tourism players and hope that more will take up these initiatives to build their brand online, to be more competitive and relevant in the marketplace,” she added.
STB is encouraging local tourism industry partners who are registered trade companies licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) to grab this opportunity and apply for the STOEF programme. Interested applicants can apply through STB’s website at https://sarawaktourism.com/stb-incentives/ before 30th September 2021. The fund is allocated on a first come, first served basis.
To further support the local tourism sector during the pandemic, STB has also initiated other campaigns such as the Sia Sitok Sarawak intra-state campaign and Visitors Incentive Package (VIP) incentives.
Sarawak Tourism Optimistic to Reopen by Fourth Quarter 2021
Kuching – Sarawak is optimistic that the tourism industry in the state is ready to reopen by end of 2021 as over 2000 tourism industry players received their second dose of Covid-19 vaccination by August 2021.
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak (MTAC) Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said this is in line with Sarawak’s route into Phase 3 of the National Recovery Plan, and hopes to get tourism and business-events sectors going by fourth quarter of this year.
Sarawak is the first state in Malaysia to complete the vaccination programme for tourism frontliners during the final phase of Industrial Covid-19 in July 2021 at the vaccination centre located at the Association of Churches, Kuching.
Known as the oldest museum in Southeast Asia, the iconic Sarawak Museum celebrated its 130th anniversary on Aug 4 since it was first opened by Rajah Charles Brooke on the same day in 1891. Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah officiated the 130th anniversary, expressing his hope that Sarawak’s museums will have the Bilbao effect, similar to what happened in Spain with the establishment of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao city.
In collaboration with the big celebration, the Sarawak Museum Department organized a two-day virtual conference themed “The future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine” along with other activities such as a year-long online exhibition “130th special objects” as well as smartphone photo and essay competitions.
STB Selected as One of The Key Players in GDS-Index Partnership Programme
Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) is selected as one of the key players in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) Partnership Programme – Sarawak Region (GDSI-Sarawak Partner) for its continuous efforts in advocating Responsible Tourism among visitors and stakeholders alike through its various greening initiatives.
Sarawak is the first destination in Malaysia to join this global benchmarking system that will rank Sarawak’s tourism sustainability performance, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Destination Criteria, which is integral to Sarawak’s Post Covid-19 Development Strategy.
STB Chief Executive Officer Sharzede Datu Salleh Askor said STB has actively organised various environmentally-oriented and skill-based programmes to not only advocate sustainability in tourism to urban, sub-urban and rural Sarawakians, but also empower the lower-income groups with the ability to upscale their income and have a sense of responsibility to fulfil the Responsible Tourism agenda to the fullest. “STB will continue to reach its goal to educate its stakeholders and build a mindset on the value of sustainability in the industry while safekeeping the environment,” she added.
The GDSI Partnership Programme – Sarawak Region, which comprises of 30 committee members (local government ministries and agencies, academia, associations, and industry partners), was officially launched by the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MTAC) Sarawak Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah on August 11th 2021 in Kuching.
Music-lovers around the world got to go down memory lane this year as STB brought Rainforest World Music Festival Virtual Experience and Borneo Jazz Memories: A Virtual Journey to their home screens.
Held from June 18-20, RWMF 2021 featured a retrospective of past RWMF performances and new pre-recorded sessions with homegrown acts, recording approximately 140,000 viewers from 80 countries through its website and social media platforms, including TVS and Shopee Live.
Meanwhile, the Borneo Jazz Festival (BJF) 2021 garnered fans from over 33 countries and 116,000 online viewers throughout its 3-day virtual journey which saw Sarawakian artistes performing in pre-recorded sessions between exclusive interviews with seasoned jazz veterans like Singapore’s ‘King of Swing’, Asia’s Jazz Superstar Jeremy Monteiro, Dave Brewer of Dave and the Doodaddies and John Hammond.
Watch out for next year’s editions as RWMF celebrates its 25th edition scheduled to be held from June 17-19, 2022 while the BJF is slated for June 24-26, 2022.
Semadang may not be the first location that comes to mind when we think of tourist stops in Sarawak, but this scenic site certainly has many exciting adventures and experiences to offer.
Located approximately an hour and a half from Kuching City, Semadang sits at the fringe of Jalan Puncak Borneo, tucked away in the Padawan district. Adrenaline junkies will have a field day here as Semadang takes pride in being the epicentre of some exciting water activities.
One of the most popular activities here is kayaking. Visitors will start their kayaking adventure from the take-off point which is 100 meters away from the junction of Sungai Abang. The river is calm and paddling through the water is a breeze during the dry season, but it is not advisable to partake in any aquatic activities during the monsoon season due to the dangerous nature of the swift currents.
What sets this place apart from other ecotourism destinations is its crystal clear and shallow rivers. This ensures that the kayaking activity is safe for both newbies and experienced adventurers. The tranquil, green jungle also serves as a breathtaking backdrop as you encounter the different species of birds, butterflies, and monkeys that call Semadang home.
As for those seeking for more thrill can look forward to conquering the rapids. The rapids at Semadang are classified as that of Class 1 but there are swift waters at certain nooks and corners that will get your blood pumping. Those lacking experience need not worry as they will be guided through the rapids and hazards under the watchful eyes of seasoned tour guides. In instances where you find your kayak on the brink of capsizing, just keep cool and enjoy the tumble. There is very little that beats the adrenaline rush of the wild, the rippling waters of mother nature. Keep in mind that safety is of utmost priority so be sure to always have your life jacket on.
There are also stretches of river which are gentle and relaxing, perfect for those looking to take it easy. These spots are perfect for body rafting. Trust the gentle flow of the river as you drift along in pure bliss, surrounded by the refreshing landscape of Sarawak’s rainforest. Take all the time you need to enjoy the scenery. Do not forget to snap pictures for your Instagram feed. These will surely turn your followers green with envy!
For a truly authentic Sarawakian experience, do give bamboo rafting a shot. These flat bamboo rafts can be quite challenging to manoeuvre but your guide will be on hand to assist you. This unique adventure will provide you with treasured memories and bragging rights among your peers.
Explore the caves Semadang has to offer if you feel like taking a break from the water activities. Semadang is home to several cave systems like the ones near Rembang Hill, Sibudak Sand Beach and Biasmara Cave. They hold amazing sights and sounds for you to feast your senses on.
Speaking of feast, swing by Kampung Danu which is located across the riverbank to get some rest and well-deserved nutrition. The locals here can whip up an impressive spread of authentic Bidayuh cuisine, made from the freshest ingredients to satisfy your appetite. And when the fish feeding season kicks in, you can join the locals in catching the fish barehanded. Yes, you heard us right, no fishing rods or nets needed… just your bare hands. And as part of our conservation efforts, visitors should however release the fish back into the river if they are lucky enough to catch one.
Other interesting activities you can partake during your stay at Semadang include paying a visit to the Kura Kura Coffee Farm, mountain biking at the old gold mining town of Bau (via the Semadang-Bau link road) or enjoying some barbecue around the fire pit at the Semadang Kayak Centre. There is never a dull moment at Semadang.
Malaysia’s Los Angeles Consulate Administration & Diplomatic Officer Visits STB
Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) received a courtesy visit by Puan Anil Fahriza Adenan, the Administration and Diplomatic Officer at the Malaysian Consulate Office Los Angeles on July 29th 2021. She was welcomed by STB’s CEO Puan Sharzede Datu Salleh Askor and STB team, and was given a corporate briefing by STB’s Communication Unit Director Margaret Apau. Puan Anil hopes that post-Covid, STB would be able to do tourism promotional activities in Los Angeles in an effort to attract more visitors to Sarawak once the border opens with Covid-19 standard operation procedures (SOP) in place. Her visit ended with an introduction session to STB staffs and a tour of the main office.
Keringkam, The Glittering Crown of Sarawakian Malay Women
Keringkam – shawls and veils made from rubia gauze fabric, fully embroidered with golden or silver coloured course threads – is the elegant traditional headscarf synonymous with Sarawakian Malay women.
With unique designs and motifs which have interesting names such as ‘chicken feet’, mountain, irrigation canals, scissor lace, beans, creeping plants, flowers, orchids and geometric patterns such as crowns, keringkams have also become precious heirlooms for many Sarawakian Malay families that have managed to pass on these treasures from one generation to another.
Interestingly, the word keringkam is not found in the Malay dictionary. In the 2006 The Sarawakiana Series: Malay Culture journal on keringkam, it is believed that the word keringkam is phonetically derived from the French word clinquat which means “glittering, decked with gold”. Another possibility is that keringkam is a combination of two words, namely Keling and Kam. Keling is a reference to Southern Indian merchants who brought the gold threads to trade in Sarawak. Kam may be taken from the ancient Cambodian language which means “types of fabrics”, or it might also have its roots from the Thai word Kham meaning “gold or anything that is beautiful”. Why kelingkam to keringkam? Well, a popular belief is that the change from “l” to “r” is heavily influenced by the Sarawakian Malay dialect that stresses strongly on the pronunciation of the consonant “r”.
There are two types of keringkam: a Selayah (veil) and a Selendang (shawl). A selayah that measures about 55cm wide and 95cm long covers the head right to the shoulder, while a 77cm wide and 156cm long selendang is worn right to the waist level of the wearer. Keringkams are primarily worn by the Malay women during the akad nikah (wedding solemnisation) ceremony, wedding receptions, engagement ceremonies, official functions, and ceremonial visits. Keringkams can also be seen worn by dancers in cultural performances and even at funerals, as the keringkam is usually placed to cover the head of the deceased.
Keringkam embroidery is an extremely intricate and meticulous process. Believe it or not, the technique of keringkam embroidery is a mathematical one – the embroiderer will calculate the strands on the fabric to determine the size of a chosen motif, which will then be repeated to ensure all motifs are identical.
All keringkams are handstitched on a pemidang (a rectangular-shaped table-like frame for the embroiderer to work on) with essential tools such as the lace spindles, silver or bronze flat needles, a pair of scissors and the star of keringkam – the gold threads. A simple piece can take two to three months to complete and the custom-made ones, that cater to the wishes of the wearer to have more motifs sewn in, will take even longer. As the scarves are embroidered with gold threads priced at RM150 a spool, a piece of keringkam can cost several thousand Ringgit, depending on its size and how heavily embroidered it is.
Ranee Margaret Brooke, the wife of the second White Rajah of Sarawak Charles Vyner Brooke who integrated herself with the locals and their culture, fell in love with the style of dress of the Sarawakian Malay women, as she wrote in her memoir My Life in Sarawak published in 1913 – “I thoroughly enjoyed putting on the costume, so comfortable it was, the discarding of my stays, too, those mid-Victorian horrors of steel and whalebone worn by fashionable females of that era. In my cool garb, I felt free, untrammelled, and (greatest of all charms in my eyes) quite Malay!”.
During a webinar sharing on keringkam and songket by Kraftangan Malaysia Development Corporation (Sarawak Branch), it was revealed that not only Ranee Margaret, but almost all of the Brookes embraced the lifestyle, culture and tradition of the Sarawakian Malays. Their appreciation and love for the local fashion was apparent when Ranee Margaret’s daughter-in-law Dayang Muda Gladys Brooke wore full Sarawakian Malay attire (with both keringkam and songket) during a visit to the Vatican City with her husband Tuan Muda Bertram Brooke in 1946.
Ranee Margaret’s affection for keringkam was further shown when she wore the traditional shawl for her official portrait and frequently invited local Malay embroidery craftsman from the nearby kampungs (villages) along the Sarawak River to the Astana (the Brooke’s residence) to produce their crafts and also teach more women to learn to make keringkam. One of them is Ros Alan from Kampung Sinjan who became one of the royal embroiderers to the Brookes in the 1880s.
Today, keringkam is not only limited to veils and shawls, but its use has also diversified and been incorporated into accessories and apparels such as handbags, ladies shoes, wall frame decorations, blouse sleeves and a host of others. Keringkam embroiderers are also entrepreneurs, establishing their own brands to cater to an increasing demand for keringkam and paving the way for a deeper appreciation to the Sarawakian Malay heritage.
For centuries, keringkam has stood the test of time, being the “crown” of elegance and beauty of Sarawakian Malay women. It is not just a head covering, it is a symbol of social status, culture, history, traditions, religion, heritage and more. Thus, the art of keringkam and the skills of keringkam-making must be preserved, expanded and promoted among the youth of today. With a class of its own, it is possible for the keringkam of Sarawak to be elevated to an international level. Who knows, one day we may be able to see keringkam being paraded on the fashion runways of New York and Paris!
For 2020, the 4th edition of Sarawak Adventure Challenge continues as a one-day multi-sport adventure race showcasing some of the best rainforests, rivers, trails and this year, one of the most beautiful caves in Western Borneo.
The challenge will be held on October 10, 2020 at Silabur Cave, Lobang Batu, Serian, about 88km from Kuching. This year’s theme is ‘The Jade Cave’, once again combining the excitement and demands of XC MTB and trail running with a spectacular cave. The race will start and finish at SMK Lobang Batu, which also highlights spectacular sceneries of the Tebakang area.
In response to requests for more variety on the format, the SAC 2020 has expanded to 14 race categories, including new categories for Sprint Duathlon, Sprint MTB and Veteran categories. Due to time constraints, there will be no early bird pricing this year and the registration cut off date is on September 13, 2020.
The Sarawak Tourism Online Ecosystem Fund is a fund allocated by the Sarawak Tourism Board in collaboration with Sarawak industry partners. It is a catalytic programme to expand Sarawak Tourism’s digital footprint with an incentive funding of up to RM5,000 for tour operators.
Who can apply:
Applicants must be a registered trade company and licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia.
Sarawak Inbound tour operators.
Each tour operator can select ONE (1) category not exceeding RM5,000 per tour operator. These categories are:
Maximum RM5,000.00 for website development, design and maintenance costs. To include a new website; re-design / update of an existing website; web hosting costs; SEO (Search Engine Optimization); maintenance costs, etc.
Maximum RM5,000.00 support for booking engine costs. To incorporate a booking engine into an existing website; and / or monthly subscription fees for operators that already use booking engines.
Maximum RM5,000.00 for Digital Advertising. To include social media boosting / search engine marketing / pay per click, etc. Includes Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads, YouTube, etc.
Maximum RM5,000.00 for content production. To include video production costs, blog articles, photography costs for photo banks or use on websites or social media, etc.
The application is subjected to a first come first serve basis. The spaces are limited and currently, 75% of the applications have been taken up. Therefore, act now and don’t miss this opportunity!