Imbak canyon homestay thriving

KOTA KINABALU: Located deep within the heart of Sabah, some 300km from here, Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (Icca) is home to one of the state’s last remaining virgin rainforests.

At the very edge between civilisation and wild, untamed forest, acting as a gateway between the two is Kampung Imbak, where some 700 people of the Dusun Sungai and Murut communities have lived off the land for generations.

A new initiative by Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) has provided the villagers with an alternative way of making a living by opening their homes to visitors.

“Kg Imbak is a strategic location for homestay programme. Not only is it on the way to Imbak Canyon, it is close to the trekking trail to Gunung Tinkar Forest Reserve,” said Sunsing Palatai, a member of the Tongod tourism community.

“Gunung Tinkar itself is a huge attraction as its peak is right at the centre of Sabah. Quite a number of tourists hike there to feel the excitement of being right at the heart of the state.”

Sunsing, who also operates a homestay at neighbouring Kampung Entilibon, has been teaching Kg Imbak’s villagers about managing a rural homestay.

These efforts come as part
of Petronas’ community development programme named Planting Tomorrow, a project with the Yayasan Sabah group that started in 2010 to assist the locals in setting up their own homestay operations.

Aside from providing funds and building materials for the homestays, the oil and gas giant also installed a gravity-fed water supply system to deliver clean water to all homes in Imbak.

There are now 22 registered operators for the homestays, which are known as “Homestay Po’pomponan” or “a place of gathering”.

Haina Sapah, 33, one of the operators in Kg Imbak, said setting up the homestay was challenging for her initially.

“I had to come up with funds, besides the provisions by Petronas, to equip my house with the required facilities.

“But I enjoy doing homestay. It helps supplement our main income from the oil palm plots.

“As long as Imbak Canyon is here, I think our homestay will thrive,” said Haina, who has three children.

According to Homestay Po’pomponan chairman Apal Sagit Uloi, 32, the homestay programme was still a work in progress.

“A lot of work still needs to be done to improve the homestay’s offerings and the overall upkeep of the village to enhance the visitors’ experience.

“We hope to see our village develop and more visitors at our homestay. We hope to showcase our cultural heritage one day, like the red durian which is one of our delicacies here,” said Apal.

The Icca was gazetted as a Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserve in 2009 with much of its growth attributed to the partnership between Petronas and Yayasan Sabah.

Petronas has to date contributed RM83 million towards the
Icca’s growth and conservation.

It is fast emerging as a major destination for not only tourists, but also scientists who carry out research activities following the completion of the Imbak Canyon Studies Centre (ICSC) last year.


Source: New Straits Times

More efforts to promote rural attractions next year – STA

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourist Association (STA) will embark on more efforts to promote rural tourist destinations in the coming year.

Chairman Tonny Chew said STA, with support from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTAC) and Tourism Malaysia, would assist second-tier cities in promoting local tourism products.

“We want to help them promote and market their products so they can benefit from spill over in the industry, because they may not know how to get their product out there.

“This effort could provide them with a better platform for them to get their products into the market,” Tonny told reporters during the annual STA year-end gathering at Lucy’s Kitchen, Kinabalu Golf Club Tanjung Aru, Friday night.

He said STA plans to promote rural tourist destinations more aggressively through familiarisation trips in order to promote new or under-exposed products.

He added that existing locations would be revisited to explore new accommodation and features in places such as Kudat, Semporna, Tawau, Sandakan and Danum Valley.

Tonny also said industry players should work together and collaborate to share resources for the development of the tourism industry as a whole, instead of writing each other off as competitors.

“If we see each other as competitors from the very beginning, we close our doors to a lot of opportunities and create barriers.

“We may be doing the same thing, offering the same product or service, but that doesn’t mean we cannot work together.

“We should think of ways to collaborate and work closely to form associates and support each other.

“There are a lot of things we can learn from each other by sharing our experiences and resources, thus creating a win-win situation and foster better management as well as reduce operating cost,” he said.

Earlier in his welcoming address, Tonny thanked MOTAC and Tourism Malaysia for their continued support in making STA activities a success.

He said gatherings such as this served as a good platform for STA members, government representatives and members of the media to exchange ideas, experiences and mingle to discuss issues, as well as to show appreciation to members who had been supportive throughout the years.


Source: Borneo Post

MoA to boost ecotourism in Kiulu, Kadamaian

PEKAN NABALU: The Kiulu Tourism Association (KTA) and Kadamaian Tourism Association (Kata) have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) to formalise their cooperation in the quest to boost ecotourism in their areas.Sabah Tourism Board Chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said the formalisation of the MoA was in response to the State Government’s decision to spur the development of the Kiulu and Kadamaian rural ecotourism pilot projects as announced by Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman in the State’s 2018 Budget.

“It is hoped that their stories will inspire others to take part in this industry,” he said after witnessing the signing of the MoA between KTA President Dr Edmon Guntis and KATA President on behalf of their associations, here, Friday.

Under the MoA, both associations become partners, whereby they will capitalise on each other’s strength and strive for excellence in the industry. The MoA is valid for two years and extendable for three years.

KTA has 41 members while Tata, 31 members. Over 100,000 tourists descended on Kiulu and Kadamaian in 2017, bringing revenue of over RM4.5 millions.

Meanwhile, Dr Edmon said the partnership would enable both associations to cooperate in many aspects of the industry, particularly in sharing knowledge and expertise in developing tourism products.

Walter said the close proximity between Kadamaian and Kiulu, located on the west coast of Sabah, and their proven track records added impetus in finalising the initiative.

The creation of joint tourism packages is expected to increase visitors to both areas.

Kadamaian and Kiulu have made good progress in rural tourism in recent times.

Numerous tourism products such as white water rafting, hiking, trekking, cycling, camping, accommodation, traditional food and drinks are readily available in both areas.

The natural beauty and cleanliness of the countryside is a magnet to both domestic and international visitors, with adventure events such as running, cycling and rafting competitions attracting thrill seekers.

Kata and KTA pledged to work hand in hand to develop and ensure the success of rural eco-tourism in their areas.


Source: Daily Express

Focus on rural tourism: Masidi

Kota Kinabalu: State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said his Ministry will be focusing on rural tourism next year.

“It is my hope that the Chief Minister’s intention in the 2018 State Budget to focus on rural tourism will become a reality next year.

“I am confident that we in Sabah have an excellent tourism product. We want the community in the rural areas to also enjoy the spill-over from the tourism industry.

“We don’t want those in the urban areas, hotels and airlines only to profit but also those in the rural areas.

There is an interest from foreign tourists to go to the rural areas in the State to enjoy the tourism attractions there,” he said to reporters at the 11th Sabah Tourism Awards, here, Saturday.

He also took the opportunity to acknowledge the people at Kadamaian in Kota Belud who built their tourism industry from scratch without or little assistance.

“I have given special mention (Ministers Special Award) to the Kadamaian Tourism Association Sabah (Kata) to emphasise that focus. We found that we have achieved a good level tourism wise in the urban and city areas and that there is also a need to focus on rural tourism.

“What made me happy is that the local people themselves were actively involved in promoting rural tourism products,” he said, adding that up to September, the Kadamaian people had earned up to RM500,000 and that they had fully embraced technology to promote their destination. Masidi also announced that there will be direct commercial flights between Kota Kinabalu and Beijing latest by early next year.

“I have spoken to the Consul General of China, Liang Caide, and he informed me that he is arranging to have direct flights between Beijing and Kota Kinabalu.

“This is good news for me as it reflects the confidence of Chinese government in our capabilities to give the best service to Chinese tourists,” he said, adding that the route which would be facilitated by Xiamen Airways was under discussion. “This will happen perhaps before end of the year or early next year.”

Masidi also urged banks to facilitate investment in hotel construction, especially four and five-star hotels, to cater to the rising number of Chinese tourists amid concerns raised over the availability of accommodation with more tourists expected from Beijing.

“We are running out of hotel rooms, so while I am very happy that the Chinese government is trying its best to help us to get direct Beijing-Kota Kinabalu flight service, at the same time, I am also quite apprehensive if we have enough rooms to cater to their demands.

“My message is to all investors and banks, please facilitate the investment in hotels, especially four and five-star hotels, as there is a real need for them.” Masidi said as of October this year, Sabah has welcomed 363,977 tourists from China. He said 2016 was an outstanding year for tourism in Sabah with total arrivals of 3.427 million.

“That year, we surpassed the results for 2013, known as the ‘best year in tourism’.

“This year up to last October, we have recorded 2,929,181 arrivals or an 11.8 per cent increase compared to the same time last year.

“From January to October, over a million international tourists (1,004,354) have visited Sabah, up 7.67 per cent compared to last year. Domestic arrivals have reached 2,011,258 (up 10.5 per cent).

“So far, tourism receipts have been estimated at RM6.396 billion, a robust nine per cent growth compared to the same period last year. That’s around more than half a million ringgit extra income earned for Sabah this year.

He said Kota Kinabalu international Airport (KKIA) is the second busiest airport after KLIA, serving 171 international and 410 domestic nights weekly.

“We are connected to 16 international destinations brought in by 13 foreign airlines, the busiest route coming from 84 nights from China and 35 nights from Korea weekly.

“In a few weeks (December 20), a new airline, Batik Air (lndonesia) will commence direct Jakarta -Kota Kinabalu flights. It will be the 14th international airline served by KKIA.

“For the next quarter next year, Kota Kinabalu will be connected to three more Chinese cities.

Chengdu, Changsha and Tianjin. What used to be charter flights coming from these three cities will now be scheduled flights, showing that the routes have ‘matured’.

He said up to October, 190 charter flights from Northern Asia (China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan) arrived in KKlA.

“The cruise season have started. Last week over 3,000 passengers from the European cruise arrived at our port in Kota Kinabalu. We are expecting three more cruises up to the year-end or a total of at least 10,000 more arrivals from all over the world.

“If we continue with this trend, we could exceed the targeted 3.55 million this year with total arrivals estimated between 3.6 -3.7 million. That could very well be the best achievement in history.”

On the Sabah Tourism Award 2017, Masidi said he was happy with it, adding the biennial awards was important to appreciate all tourism players and a testimony they had played their role to help boost the industry.

Among the winners for this year were Ministers Special Awards (Robert Lo and Kadamaian Tourism Association Sabah), Best Tourism Attraction (Borneon Sun Bear Conservation and Mari Mari Cultural Village, Excellence in Hotel Services: (Shangrila Rasa Ria, Ming Garden Hotel, Hotel Sixty3, Borneo Nature Lodge, Koposizon Homestay Papar, Sipadan Mabul Resort Water Bungalow), Best Inbound Tour Operator: (Amazing Borneo Tours and Events ), Best Inbound Tour Package (3D2N Bird Watching Kinabatangan-Kinabatangan Jungle Camp), Best Tour Guide: Napoleon Dimus (Borneo Rainforest Lodge), Most promising Tour Guide: Mohd Shirou (S.I. Tours), Best Food Outlets: Naan- flavours of India, Shangrila Rasa Ria and Hokkaido Sakagura Restaurant, Best Shopping Complex: Imago, Best Night Spot Experience: (Shamrock Irish Bar), Best SPA Reflexology: (Helen Beauty Reflexology and CHI, The Spa Shangrila Tg Aru) , Best Airline Partners: (China Southern Airlines, Eastar Jet, Spring Airlines, Airasia), Best Community Based Tourism Initiative (Rural): (Padas Farmstay Tenom -TYK Adventure Tours), Best Golfing Experience: (Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club). – Neil Chan


Source: Daily Express

Surfing picking up in Kudat, says Sabah tourism minister

KOTA KINABALU: Surfing is picking up as a new tourism draw with the district of Kudat being the best place in the state for the sport activity, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun says.

“Based on the feedback that we received, there has been an increasing number of surfers in Sabah and it is also an exciting sport tourism activity,” he said.

“Kudat is the best spot for this sport in the whole state because of its great surfs.

“Each district in the state should explore its niche, and I’m proud to say that Kudat has found its.”

Masidi was in Kudat yesterday to kick off an annual surfing and music festival which combined both activities for the first time at the Kalampunian Beach in Tanjung Simpang Mengayau.

He said it might be a good idea to separate the events again in the future.

“Maybe we need to rethink the music festival and move it back to its original location, the Tip of Borneo, also in Tanjung Simpang Mengayau,” he said.

“We can start the music festival earlier because its location is far from the town and people may be concerned about going home late.”

Professional surfers have described Sabah as a potential surfing destination like that in Bali, Indonesia.

Sabah’s beaches are reportedly good enough to cater to between 50 and 100 surfers at a time.

Kudat, which is about a three-hour drive from here, has wave rolls from about 1.5 metres to 2.5 metres, and also half-foot surfs which are good for beginners.

Sabah’s northern district also boasts more beautiful beaches and pristine waters compared to those in the state capital.

“Kudat is a paradise for surfing enthusiasts. Some of them even rode the waves there during the supermoon phenomenon in November last year,” Sabah Surfing Association president Ivan Tan said.


Source: Free Malaysia Today News