SEMPORNA: Islanders here must leverage on Semporna’s popularity as the world-class diving heaven by getting involved in creating their own tourism products, said Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.
The Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment said village folks must be proactive in promoting their community to tourists wanting to experience coastal and water village lifestyle as an option to staying in resorts.
Joniston, who is also Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board, was speaking at the engagement with commitee members of the newly formed Pulau Bum-Bum tourism association on the island, on Saturday.
Also present were Ministry’s Deputy Permenant Secretary Mary Malangking; STB deputy chief executive officer Julinus Jimit; Federation of Rural Tourism Association Sabah (FeRTAS) president Walter Kandayon, who is also a board member of STB; and Semporna assistant district officer Hafizul Hafiz Ladja Hassan.
Joniston, who is on a four-day working visit to Tawau and Semporna, said the involvement of villagers is crucial to ensure that the benefit from tourism industry would positively impact all segments of society.
“The Sabah Tourism Board (STB) has embarked on a concerted effort to empower rural folks through the community-based tourism (CoBT) initiative since 2014 and it is well received with Sabah having over 100 CoBTs now.
“Moreover, the state government has put an emphasis on tourism in its Sabah Maju Jaya development plan and hence, it is our duty to continue encourage and support rural communities to be on track towards positive transformation,” he said.
Joniston then praised Bum-Bum villagers for showing their commitment in promoting their island as an attraction, whereby some villagers have begun turning their homes into homestays.
On this note, he advised villagers to be mindful of the importance of adhering to conditions set by the government such as getting their homestays registered and licensed.
Joniston had also toured Pulau Omadal to have an engagement with members of Wanita Pulau Omadal (WAPO, an organisation formed in 2010 that focuses on empowering the women of Pulau Omadal through handicraft making and turtle conservation work.