SARAWAK will get the chance to showcase its ecotourism offerings next year when the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) heads there for the first time.

Bearing the theme ASEAN Advancing Tourism Together, ATF 2014 will be held in Kuching, capital of the eastern Malaysian state, from January 16-23.

The ASEAN Travel Exchange (TRAVEX) will be held at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching, where some 1,000 regional sellers and 600 international buyers will congregate. Tourism ministers and heads of national tourism organisations will put their heads together at the five-star Pullman Kuching.

Malaysia’s minister of tourism, Ng Yen Yen, said: “Hosting ATF 2014 is timely, as it will be the first international tourism event of the year in Malaysia, and will help usher in Visit Malaysia Year.”

Ng added that Sarawak, home to the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, would make an “apt venue” for ATF 2014.

“Delegates can discuss pertinent issues on sustainable development and more in a remote destination, surrounded by nature, which will provide for greater concentration.

“We chose to host ATF in Sarawak as we would like to give the destination greater exposure. It has great ecotourism products and good infrastructure for MICE. By organising ATF there, we hope to showcase the destination’s natural beauty, infrastructure for business events and diverse tourism products to those looking for adventure, heritage and culture.”

The minister said excursions and post-show tours to East and Peninsular Malaysia would provide an opportunity for ATF delegates to witness the developments in the country since 2005, when Malaysia last hosted the rotating annual event in Langkawi.

“We wish to present Sarawak as a model case study to be emulated by overseas tour operators and planners on how a secondary destination can build on its strengths – blending culture and the environment – to become successful in tourism,” Ng said.