Sarawak’s capital has a new accolade in its trophy collection, having just won a United Nations backed “Tourist City Award”.
Kuching City South Council (MBKS) was the joint winner in the category — alongside Xining, in Qinghai, China — at the second World Cities Scientific Development Forum earlier this month in Chengdu, China.
The two cities are the first in Asia to win the highly regarded award. Two other prizes, the “Ecological City Award” and the “Cultural City Award” went to Cape Town in South Africa and Cincinnati in Ohio, United States, respectively.
The global competition was organised by the United Nations, World Cities Scientific Development Alliance and the Sister Cities International. More than 200 city officials from 30 countries took part.
The new award aside, Kuching is also the only Malaysian city accredited the United Nations’s Healthy City status.
Expressing delight, MBKS Mayor Chan told The Star the award came as a surprise as the council had not actively pursued it.
“I first came to know about this when the Malaysian ambassador to China contacted us, asking the council to submit a proposal on the city’s heritage background and our community events,” Chan said.
“I didn’t expect to win. It was a complete surprise. I’m told one of the reasons we won was because the judges were impressed with MBKS’s website, which heavily features community news.”
Chan also believed MBKS entry that highlighted public parks — including the Friendship Park at Jalan Song, which was co-funded by the Malaysian and Chinese Governments — was another factor for the win.
Asked how he would be celebrating, Chan joke that he would double up on his Tai-Chi exercises around town.
“I used to do my Tai-Chi at Tabuan Jaya Community Park quite often, although lately I’ve been a bit busy.”
On a more serious note, Chan said the win could net Kuching another sister city, bringing the total to five.
He said the council was in discussion with a city authority in the Changjiang District. “MBKS is working on this through the tourism sector.” Chan said, but declined to name the specific city.
The Changjiang District, where Asia’s longest river, the YangTze, runs through, is located in China’s south east.
“I met some of their officials there recently during the forum and their people expressed very strong interests to partner with us,” Chan added.
Presently, Kuching is sister cities with Johor Baru, Pontianak (Indonesia), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), and Seattle (US).
Chan said MBKS would work towards better landscaping and more green lungs as Kuching develops.