SALES UP: Hotels are fully booked and demand for handicraft rises as 100,000 visitors throng town
LAWAS: BUSINESS has never been so good for the half-a-dozen hoteliers and innkeepers in this small town in northern Sarawak, despite the opening of a brand new three-star hotel last year.
All the rooms, including those of the new hotel, had been snapped up months ago.
The reason for such good fortune was the growing number of visitors to the annual Lawas Fest, which started on Thursday.
More than 100,000 people, including those from neighbouring Brunei and Sabah, to faraway cities like Kuching, were making a beeline here.
Even hotels that had seen better days, known affectionately as hotel kipas -- where rooms only have fans -- were also fully-booked.
Visitors with no rooms either stayed with friends or relatives, or at hotels in neighbouring towns like Limbang (57km away), Sipitang (40km away) and for the most intrepid revellers, Beaufort in Sabah, which is 82km away.
Like their counterparts here, hoteliers in Sipitang were also enjoying a spillover of the festival.
All three hotels there were fully-booked this weekend as the town was strategically located at the state's border with Sabah.
The festival was also a time for small businesses and cottage industries to not only showcase their best products, but to make profit.
Among the entrepreneurs were Litad Mulok, 60, and Margaret Ating, 45. These two Lun Bawang women, from the village of Long Tuma just 3km from the outskirts of town, were among dozens of women whose home-made beads had become a sought-after fashion accessory.
Mulok, with her knowledge, skill and expertise in crafting Lun Bawang beads, was the driving force in promoting her village's handicraft product.
Women from her village had travelled extensively around Asia to promote and market their beads as fashion accessories.
Ating had been to Thailand a few years ago on a similar venture.
Sales at festivals like this were always good for the women.
"At the Borneo Jazz Fest in Miri last week, I made more than RM1,000 profit, clean!
"It's the same as the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching.
"Sales are good because we make ancient ornaments look trendy, which the youngsters appreciate."
The women of Long Tuma had opened a stall at the gerai komuniti section of the Lawas Festival to showcase their latest bracelet and necklace designs.