11 August 2021, Kuching: Sarawak is joining the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) for Business Events and Tourism by launching the GDSI Partnership Programme – Sarawak Region (GDSI-Sarawak Partner) comprising 30 committee members consisting of local government ministries and agencies, academia, associations, and industry partners. This initiative and partnership is a world first for Malaysia.
The GDS-Index is a globally recognised benchmarking system that will rank Sarawak’s business events and tourism sustainability performance. The assessment will be based on 71 indicators across 4 key areas which are environmental performance, social progress performance, destination supplier performance, and destination management performance. The Index is fully aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Destination Criteria which is part and parcel of Sarawak’s Post COVID-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) for Tourism to make Sarawak a leading destination for ecotourism and sustainable business events by 2030.
To kickstart the Index, Kuching city has been selected as the pilot project which positions Kuching as 1 of the 75 progressive destinations in the world to undertake the GDS-Index. Upon successful completion and understanding, the assessment will expand to other cities in Sarawak such as Sibu, Miri, and other major towns in the future.
Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak and appointed GDSI-Sarawak Partner’s Patron, was clear that while the Index prioritises business events and tourism, its underlying value will benefit Sarawak at large, “It will support every industry in Sarawak to adopt best practices of sustainability. A proven and trusted system such as this will give us the necessary information and tools to help us make better decisions, improve business strategies, foster collaboration and innovation, promote Sarawak on a higher scale that is lucrative in today’s world thus, making our State a place we all want to live in.”
The Minister further expressed that “for business events and tourism, our move towards a sustainable future will drive Sarawak’s visibility and branding around the world. It will give us the power to create strong destination stories and position Sarawak as a potential role model for other second tier destinations to implement a similar action.”
Steering the assessments are Sarawak’s 30 Committee members, under the GDSI-Sarawak Partner, to lead the state’s sustainable future through data consolidation, stakeholder engagements and communication. The main committee is chaired by Mr. Hii Chang Kee, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture Sarawak with the respective Chief Executive Officers of Business Events Sarawak and Sarawak Tourism Board as Task Leaders. Other key players in the Partnership Programme include the Ministry of Local Government & Housing Sarawak, Ministry of Urban Development & Natural Resources Sarawak, Kuching North City Hall, and Kuching South City Council.
Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) have been actively advocating Responsible Tourism among visitors and stakeholders alike through its various greening initiatives. “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,” said STB Chief Executive Officer Sharzede Datu Salleh Askor.
Sharzede further added that “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”.
Environmental sustainability is in tandem with Business Events Sarawak’s Legacy Impact motion which is emphasising the long term, positive impacts of business events. Under the Legacy Impact pillar of Environmental, the GDS-Index is a catalytic assessment. “Sustainable conventions, exhibitions, corporate meetings and corporate incentives are a must,” said Amelia Roziman, Business Events Sarawak’s CEO. “More business events planners are making decisions based on sustainability performances and this matter goes as deep as evaluating social inclusiveness and the return on investment of their events. These factors also affect international and national delegates’ decision to visit Sarawak for business events.”
Amelia further expressed that “when the sky reopens, Sarawak will not just be ready for hosting business events that adhere to Standard Operating Procedures, but be responsible towards the environment.”
To date, GDSI-Sarawak Partner is in the process of data consolidation and the result of Kuching’s performance is expected to be released by October. The initiative will hold bi-annual check-ins to compile results, recommendations, and update policies that encourage a pledge of commitment from all involved parties and stakeholders.