Borneo Eco Tours backs UN resolution on ecotourism in fighting poverty

The medical team carrying out their work at the Sukau Medical Camp 2012.

KOTA KINABALU: Borneo Eco Tours (BET) welcome and support the latest United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolution to recognize ecotourism as key in the fight against poverty, the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development.

The resolution entitled “Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection” acknowledged ecotourism as a tool to create significant opportunities for the local and indigenous communities to generate income, job creation and education while protecting the biodiversity of the nature and cultural heritage.

Before this, the resolution for the same subject was first included in the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20) and the results of the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity.

Borneo Eco Tours together with its sister company, Sukau Rainforest Lodge (SRL), have been promoting ecotourism for the last 22 years since 1991.

Tourists viewing elephants in Sukau from a boat.

The water tank project in Kg. Lugu, Pitas.

Since those early years, the group has been giving back to the environment and community while making profit. Its views fitted perfectly to the three pillars of sustainability (environmental, economic and social).

The first project in Sukau began in 1995 when BET and SRL organized an environmental project to remove Salvinia molesta weeds from the Kelenanap oxbow lake at Kinabatangan, Sukau.

The group has also initiated the tree planting project in Sukau in 2000 and assisting the local Orang Sungai community in terms of social and economic improvements.

With the increasing capability and more projects outside Sukau area, the group registered a non-profit organization under the name of Borneo Ecotourism Solutions & Technologies or BEST Society in 2006.

Since then, it has been active in implementing entrepreneurial projects, organising seminars and workshops, provide technical assistance, conduct educational tours and offer scholarships to empower and build the capacity of the local people, to develop employment and income opportunities in order to eradicate poverty in the rural community. Among the seminars organised together with the local authorities such as District Offices, Village Safety Committees and Small & Medium Enterprises (SME) Bank are Community Based Eco-tourism Workshops, Towards Personal Development Seminar, Business Opportunity Workshop and Virgin Coconut Oil Processing Workshop.

In 2009, BEST Society obtained a USD50,000.00 grant from GEF/SGP (UNDP) for a two-year sustainable tourism destination development program in Kimihang, near Kudat. The project was called the Kimihang Environmental Conservation and Community Capacity Building Project.

Apart from that, educational campaigns were held among school children in order to create environmental awareness. The Environmental Day Celebration and the Mangrove Action Day in Kimihang, Kudat were some of the environment projects organized with the co-operation of NGOs such as Environmental Action Committee Kinabatangan (EAC Kinabatangan) and WWF, Kudat.

BET and SRL are committed to continually improve the livelihood of local communities. Through BEST Society, the third Sukau Medical Outreach Camp was organized last year at Kinabatangan to provide medical and dental care where general healthcare facilities are difficult to access. Realizing clean and safe water is crucial to healthy life, BEST Society initiated a water tanks project to villages in remote area of Kudat, Pitas and Sukau. Over a period of 15 years (1996-2011), BET and SRL have contributed RM209,664.48 and RM135,885.25 respectively, to implement the community and environmental projects. A total of over RM750,000 has been spent on various projects since then.

As a result of the successful implementation of various community/environmental projects for more than a decade, the group has won numerous awards and recognitions including from National Geographic Adventure Magazine, British Travel Awards, Green Globe, IH&RA, Conde Nast and Travelasia.

Recently, BET was named as the winner of SKÅL International Sustainable Development in Tourism Award/Best Tour Operator – Travel Agents 2012 in recognition of its triple bottom line of sustainable tourism business.

SKÅL is a professional organization of tourism leaders around the world, with approximately 20,000 members in 450 clubs throughout 85 countries.

In January 2013, Albert Teo, who has been an Adjunct Lecturer, was conferred a FELLOW of Edith Cowan University, Perth for his outstanding contribution in the field of ecotourism, social entrepreneurship and philanthropy. He became the 20th and the latest to be conferred the title of Fellow by the university since its founding 22 years ago.

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