“SARAWAK TOURISM FORUM 2015”: At the end of last May, the Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF, Sarawak’s major association of tourism stakeholders) held, with the support of the Sarawak Government, a brainstorming forum to discuss the state and future of Sarawak’s tourism industry.  Members of the Sarawak Heritage Society were invited to join. Working groups were requested to tackle specific topics – of which the place of Heritage in Sarawak tourism – in a pragmatic way.

Not surprisingly, the importance of cultural heritage conservation and management was strongly and repeatedly highlighted by diverse stakeholders during the forum:

In its opening address,  the Chief Minister of Sarawak stressed the role of culture among the variety of attractions Sarawak can offer. He quoted for example the rule of the White Rajahs… -“What country can offer this? People are curious to (learn about it) “-  and Alfred Russel Wallace’s footsteps in Sarawak, adding : “People don’t come to Kuching for Sales… Let other countries do (this).”

The report of the forum to the Sarawak Ministry of tourism states: “We have to conserve and protect our major tourism assets and products, both tangible and intangible: heritage buildings,  material culture, (…)“. […] And: “Times have changed and some of our regulations and licensing regimes are dated and may no longer be relevant”. Not the least, of the “Ten Big Ideas” that the report of the Forum puts forward, the first relates to heritage:

Establish a heritage body –to identify all examples of heritage, tangible and intangible, for support and preservation, leading to a management plan to gazette and to allow other actions to be taken for heritage preservation, including the use of UNESCO guidelines for the preservation and conservation of heritage buildings and training of heritage guides.”

The outcome of the discussions on Heritage, as summarized in the report of the forum, are reproduced below.

These diagnostic and proposals -which the Sarawak Government acknowledged and promised to consider and to discuss with the stakeholders-, are fully in line with what the Sarawak Heritage Society is advocating for,  in particular on the need to update and unroll Sarawak’s regulatory framework on cultural heritage, in a context where many valuable assets have either disappeared in recent years, or have been disfigured, or are are under-managed, or have their sheer existence threatened. SHS stands ready to continue assisting, within its means, in the “follow through” of these proposals in line with its stand on tourism, which abides to the principle of “Tourism for Heritage” (as opposed to “Heritage for Tourism”).     

Comments are welcome.

From the report of the Sarawak Tourism Forum 2015

Outcome of the discussion group on Heritage


➢ Sarawak is losing valuable heritage assets (arts, crafts, historic buildings, etc.)
➢ Lack of political will to safeguard heritage assets and invest in their preservation and
➢ Local communities are not involved in preservation of historical assets
➢ Restoration works need guidelines and the work needs to be done by
conservation-­minded architects and contractors.

Ideas and Solutions

➢ Use UNESCO standards as guidelines for the preservation and management of
Sarawak’s heritage buildings, e.g. Brooke-­era Forts, heritage streets, heritage
buildings and sites.
➢ Identify and document the important heritage sites
➢ Interpretive information and signage at significant heritage sites.
➢ More documentation on heritage resources, assets, art and craft traditions.
➢ Involve local communities to actively participate and contribute to historical and
cultural preservation.
➢ Proper training for tour guides in heritage guiding, ideally under UNESCO guidance.
➢ Promote Kuching as a heritage destination
➢ Promotion of heritage in local school curricula with visits to local heritage sites.
➢ Promote themed heritage attractions within the State.
➢ Promote art tourism with elements of heritage.

Who Should Take the Lead

➢ The relevant government agencies (e.g. Ministry of Tourism, Local Councils, Sarawak
Museum) in consultation with NGOs (e.g. Heritage Society, Friends of Sarawak
Museum) along with other stakeholders (e.g. local communities) and interested

Here is the full report of the Forum (pdf, 13 pages).

Sunset over Fort Margherita, Kuching

Sunset over Fort Margherita, Kuching