For the second year in a row, Sarawak Heritage Society has joined forces with the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak to run a workshop on heritage with members of the Sarawak Tourist Guides Association (SKTGA) from 15 to 17 May 2015. Following on from last year’s success, the workshop was extended into three days to include inputs from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, the Tourist Police as well as from AZAM, bringing fresh perspectives and energy to the programme.

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It introduced the participants to heritage conservation principles and Sarawak’s heritage and history, including recent conservation projects such as Forts Margherita and Alice. The participants reported particularly enjoying being on the other side of the guide/tourist relationship when they were taken on visits of two of Santubong’s archaeological sites and later of the Chinese History Museum and Ewe Hai and Upper China streets, conducted using heritage guiding techniques by SHS president Karen Shepherd and volunteer heritage guide Paul Gerarts. At the close, the guides reverted to their usual roles, treating the rest of the group to tours of the historic old Courthouse in Kuching, adding heritage information into their already extensive knowledge of guiding techniques.

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Rose Au, SHS committee member who facilitated the event and a licensed tour guide herself observed that most of the participants were senior guides, giving up their time voluntarily. She said: “with new heritage guiding skills and knowledge on heritage, they will ‘think heritage’ and become ambassador storytellers, helping both to protect and to share our heritage with visitors. They will also enjoy their guiding assignments more. Tour guiding will never be the same again!

The participants were also given the opportunity to highlight lesser known sites of heritage interest as diverse as St James’ Church in Kampung Quop and a durian orchard in Siburan and also to make suggestions to the Ministry representatives on potential problems and solutions for tourism in these sites. Principal Assistant Secretary of the Ministry Connie Christopher Kesa warmly welcomed their input as a means to inform the upcoming meeting of the State Tourism Task Group Committee presided by the Assistant Minister of Tourism Sarawak, Datuk Talip Zulpilip in Sibu at the end of the week.

SHS President Karen Shepherd commended the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak for approaching this workshop from a genuine heritage perspective and said : “I was hugely impressed and heartened by the knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm of the participants. They showed a genuine commitment, not just to enriching their guiding experience but also to heritage protection and concerns in the State.