The tourism industry plays a very important role in the political and socio-economic well-being of rural economies in Sabah as its main tourism products are nature-based. Tourism provides alternative sources of income and employment to local communities, thus helping to reduce the rural-urban migration. It also contributes towards the preservation of local arts and crafts and a broader understanding of the diverse local cultures and their way of life.
Tourism development has been shown to bring many benefits to the rural economy. In many rural parts of Sabah where the development of tourism has taken place, it has slowly replaced some of the main traditional economic activities and has become the main source of income for the local people. However, at many of these tourism attraction destinations, due to little understanding of the tourism industry and businesses, local communities have minimum roles in determining the future direction of tourism development. Most of the decisions are made by private sector investors who operate tourism facilities, for examples, tour operators and tourism, accommodation and transportation operators. Sometimes the local authorities are lagging behind in playing their management and regulating roles.
Based on the above background that the Seminar on “Development of Sustainable Tourism in the Rural Areas of Sabah” was held with the following objectives:
- to increase a greater awareness on the current issues and challenges in managing tourism sustainably;
- to provide updates on the government’s efforts in encouraging rural tourism;
- to provide a platform for experts in relevant sectors to share their knowledge and experiences;
- to highlight the roles of public and private sectors in managing tourism resources sustainably; and
- to provide a platform for the meeting of Sabah’s economic players to solve a common goal of providing sustainable employment for the rural communities in Sabah while preserving the natural beauty and resources of the state.
The Seminar was held on the 6th September 2018 at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu. The one-day seminar was jointly-organized by the Institute for Development Studies Sabah (IDS) and Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and in collaboration with Sabah Tourism Board (STB). The seminar was attended by 158 participants comprising of officials from government agencies and departments, community leaders, members of the civil society, entrepreneurs and business leaders.
The seminar was officiated by Dato Rosmadi Sulai, the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment (MTCE) representing the Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah cum Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Yang Berhormat Datuk Christina Liew.