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13 longhouses on tourism trail

by Eve Sonary Heng, reporters@theborneopost.com. Posted on January 2, 2014, Thursday

The flash mob dance at KIA to welcome foreign tourists at KIA. — Photo by Jeffery Mostapha

Talip (fourth left), Zuraina (third left), Hasiah (fourth right) and others in a photo call after the launching of the longhouse homestay package. — Photos by Jeffery Mostapha Ends

Talip launches the Longhouse Homestay Package Brochure in the presence of Zuraina (left) and Hasiah.

Flash mob dancers welcoming tourists at Kuching Internation Airport.

Talip welcomes foreign tourists at KIA as a symbolic gesture to kick-start Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

This National Blue Ocean Strategy aims at generating income for the longhouse dwellers

KUCHING: Thirteen longhouses have been picked for a homestay package under the National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) to turn villages and longhouses into tourist attractions to benefit their residents.

They are listed in the ‘Longhouse Homestay Package Brochure’, which comes under the ‘Visit My Kampong (VMK) – Transforming kampungs into centres of tourism to accelerate rural development’ initiative, that was launched yesterday.

Assistant Minister for Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip, who launched the package at the Kuching International Airport (KIA), said this community-run tourism business was being done on a public-private partnership (PPP).

Capital allocation and training would be given to the selected villages and longhouses, he told reporters covering the event.

“This package is launched in conjunction with Visit Sarawak Year 2014 and Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

“We aim to attract 4.1 million tourists to our state this year. With active and aggressive promotions, we are confident of attracting more tourists based on trends recorded last year and the year before.”

The 13 selected longhouses are subdivided into Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu longhouses.

The attractiveness of these longhouses to tourists was in fact given a shot in the arm on Oct 28 last year when Lonely Planet listed the Iban longhouse in its top 10 ‘Where to feel like one of the family’ places in its Best in Travel 2014.

The world’s number one guidebook publisher and global authority on travel Lonely Planet described Iban longhouses as a cosy place.

“Things can get cosy in an Iban longhouse. Members of Sarawak’s largest ethnic group traditionally live in communal, wonky, wooden structures that might be home to 30-odd families – and a few curious travellers.

“Many longhouses are secreted away in the jungle, reached only by boat. On arrival, your first port of call should be the chief, who will hopefully grant you permission to ascend into the longhouse’s ruai (common area).

“This is where it all happens: eating, rice-wine drinking, gossiping, dancing…the Ibans like party, so don’t count on much sleep,” said Lonely Planet.

Its annual roundup was based on recommendations drawn from ideas submitted by Lonely Planet staff, authors, bloggers and tweeters. Their suggestions are refined by a panel of in-house travel experts based on scores for topicality, excitement and that special x-factor.

“Where to feel like one of the family” is one of the inventive lists to the standard round up of “Top 10 destinations” to mark the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family to kip with clans globally.

Talib said he believed the longhouse homestay package, which has the support of Tourism Malaysia, would sell well as Sarawak had its own unique features such as multi-cultural background, traditions, dances, and greens that could wow tourists.

“Tourists are also looking for safe, clean, friendly people and greens. We have all that here. We have a clean, liveable and safe city. We have clean rivers, forests and jungles to explore. Tourists would love these.”

Talib said the longhouse homestay package, which would give tourists a totally different and unique experience, was being offered at reasonable prices.

“Other activities (not listed in the brochure) can also be arranged upon requests by tourists.”

At KIA, Talib welcomed 90 foreign tourists as a symbolic gesture to the start of Visit Malaysia Year 2014. The tourists were treated to a flash mob dance put up by airport staff, airlines staff, including pilots and air stewardess, and security personnel.

Also present were Department of National Heritage director-general Emeritus Professor Dato Zuraina Majid and Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board’s board of director member Hasiah Abang Saufi.

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