MAS to do its bit
The Borneo Post - Monday, 14 July 2003

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Ministry ties up with airline to promote Rainforest Music Festival

SANTUBONG: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will become a new partner of Sarawak's Tourism Ministry in promoting next year's annual Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), the region's premier world music gathering.

Minister of Tourism Dato Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg said his ministry would collaborate with MAS as the airline had better accessibility to most international destinations around the globe.

"We will work harder to bring in more people to the festival next year and it would be better to do so with MAS," he told a media conference at the Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) here yesterday.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and SCV are hosting three-day music festival (July 11 to 13) with the support of Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism Malaysia, Ministry of Tourism Sarawak and Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, while MAS is the official airline.

MAS regional manager for Sarawak and West Kalimantan Mohamed Suffian Abdul Malik said the airline hoped to work out packages that would include hotel accommodation for visitors who wished to participate in next year's RWMF.

Being the official airline this year, he said MAS sponsored the flights of several groups of performers while the rest came in with discounted air fares.

"We will be ready next year with more organised packages for those interested to witness the festival," he added.

On the festival's turn-out, Johari said this year's event had generated a larger crowd, an increase by about 50 percent against last year's figures.

The first night of RWMF pulled a crowd of about 4,000, while the second night saw some 7,000 people, which was already about 1,000 more than that for last year's audience for three days, before taking into account the turnout for the final night, he said.

"We already have more than 10,000 visitors to the festival in just two days of the event and we are expecting thousands more tonight (Sunday)," he said, adding that the response was overwhelming.

Johari attributed the good turnout to the aggressive promotion drive, additional and side events namely the Sarawak Borneo International

Ethnic Music Conference (July S-9) and Food and Fruits Fiesta (July 1113) and improvement made on the festival's venue itself.

Quoting an example, he said for the first time this year, RWMF performers held roadshows in Sibu and Miri prior to the festival at SCV.

"These had brought the spirit of the festival to other parts of Sarawak and encouraged the locals there to come here," he said.

He added that a transport company had also initiated shuttle services between the city and SCV which improved the accessibility to the festival's venue for both locals and visitors.

The new venue for the main stage, set at the foot of Gunung Santubong and against the backdrop of the rainforest not only could accommodate a larger crowd but also stressed Sarawak's efforts in conserving the rainforest, environment and ethnic music, Johari said.

He hoped the event had cultivated a sense of appreciation for culture, nature and environment among visitors and contributed towards global conservation and development of rare and endangered ethnic music and musical instruments.

Commending good community participation, RWMF organising chairman Mohd Tuah Jais thanked some 300 volunteers who had helped out in the festival and the media for their wide coverage on the event.