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KUDAT: A collaboration between MASwings and the Homestay Association Sabah is expected to bring the tourism industry to a higher level.
Dubbed the MASwings Adventure – Misompuru Homestay Kudat, the programme is also part of the Tourism Ministry’s effort to include locals in the rural areas to play their part in the industry.
“MASwings realised that the homestay programme is a niche tourism market and I believe this is not a bad investment since it is not available anywhere else in the world.
“We want to show the world that Malaysia is a multi-cultural country, the people come from different ethnics and cultures and yet we can live together in harmony,” said Tourism Minister Datuk Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen, adding that the packages are sold through their brandings ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’ and ‘Cuti-Cuti Malaysia’.
She added that even the tourist turnout for homestay programmes in Sabah doubled from 17,528 people in 2010 to 34,578 people last year.
“The tourism receipts also increased from RM2.46 million in 2010 to RM3.54 million last year, and for the first four months this year, the revenue is totalled at RM1.04 million derived from 7,714 visitors,” she said when launching the package here yesterday.
Ng said that locals in the rural areas now have an alternative to earn a living, adding: “You no longer have to depend on agriculture or the forest to earn a living. It is time to divert to the service industry which brings more lucrative returns.”
She pointed out that the homestay programme is another way to promote the local cultures and their way of living.
“You can take them to catch fish, rubber tapping or beading activities … these are the experiences they are looking for and I believe they will bring home the sweet memories of their stay here and share them with friends.”
Ng said that this is also in line with the move to promote Airline Homestay in East Malaysia, similarly to Railway Homestay in Peninsular Malaysia.
She added her ministry is also aggressively promoting the homestay programmes, and currently through an application which can be downloaded from the Ipad and Iphone gadgets by clicking ‘Go 2 Homestay’.
The Misompuru Homestay was named as among the top three best homestay programmes in Malaysia. It is two-hour-and-a-half drive from Kota Kinabalu, and recorded a total of 1,126 visitors in 2010 earning a total of RM276,381.
The number of visitors swelled to 14,912 last year and revenue collected increased to RM710,943.
MASwings Business Development and Charters head Zamani Maran Abdullah disclosed that response has been encouraging to the package.
“We rather had a slow start when the programme was introduced in September last year but bookings have picked up this year, thanks to the promotion by the ministry and the Sabah Homestay Association,” he said.
Zamani said they are enjoying a 20 per cent increase in bookings this year, adding that MASwings will also be exploring other homestays in Sabah for a similar package.
MASwings currently flies twice weekly to the district on a 19-seater Twin Otter aircraft on Mondays and Thursdays.
Meanwhile, Sabah Homestay Association president Jeffry Yahya said the programme participants are complimenting each other.
“We should not outdo one another but rather compliment each other. We need not be the best but be the ‘shiniest’ of all,” he said.
Also present at the event was Sabah Tourism Malaysia Ministry Office director Nely Nasir.