Wednesday, July 17

Community tourism project to raise income of rural folk

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KUCHING: Kampung Timurang, a local Bidayuh village famed for the world acclaimed Rafflesia flower, as well as mysterious limestone caves, are pioneers of a ‘community tourism’ project by the Federal Ministry of Tourism.

PROGRAMMES INVOLVING THE COMMUNITY: Dawos (seated, middle) making a gesture while speaking to reporters after the seminar. Also in the photo is Ik Pahon (seated, right). Photo by Chimon Upon

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos said this project is to maximise the potential of Timurang, located along Borneo Heights Road near here, as a tourist destination.

If proven successful, a similar programme will be replicated to benefit the Orang Asli community in one of the states in the peninsula.

“Community tourism is one of the strategies to raise the income of rural people in line with the aspirations of the New Economic Model for high-income economy,” he told reporters after opening the ‘Entrepreneurship In Tourism Seminar’ at the old DUN complex, yesterday.

He pointed out that the idea to set up the project at Timurang was due to the lack of promotions for tourism in the Borneo Heights area, since tourist guides often bring tourists only up to the Semengok Orang Utan rehabilitation centre.

According to him, Timurang has many untapped tourism products, such as being the nearest place from Kuching to view the world’s biggest flower Rafflesia, while its caves are linked to tales of enigmatic Japanese soldiers, who invaded Borneo and landed on our shores during World War II.

“The present bunch of tourist guides that we have are mostly urbanites. But do they know the plants and trees at the village… and can they even differentiate between a Durian tree and Meranti tree? Only the kampung people know these and the stories related to it.

“We want the people in the village to be involved and make money. At Borneo Heights, the landscape is very hilly and mountainous, and obviously this is not suitable for the people to plant oil palm trees. Thus, the community tourism industry is best suited for them, and we will train them for it,” he said.

He said Timurang now has a visitors service centre which was built with the RM100,000 allocated by his ministry, while Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) is also guiding the village with its homestay programme as accomodation facility, therefore making it very accommodative for visitors who wishes to stay a while.

He also revealed plans to improve the walkways leading to the caves and sites with the wonderfully attractive Rafflesia being the centrepiece.

“I want the project at Timurang to succeed…I am giving a time frame of six months. If successful, then we will do a similar program at one of the Orang Asli villages in the peninsula. This will be interesting because the Orang Asli people are known for their folk tales,” he said.

On another matter, he said the Ministry will also restore the Rajah James Brooke Cottage at Mount Serembu, near Kampung Peninjau in Bau.

He said this also has the potential to become a new tourist attraction due to its historical significance. It is estimated to cost about RM150,000 to RM200,000.

Meanwhile, around 500 people from villages in the Kuching, Serian, Bau and Lundu districts attended the one-day seminar,  jointly organised by the Ministry of Tourism and the Mambong Parliamentary office.

Also present at the seminar were state Tourism and Heritage Ministry’s permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik and MPP secretary Michael Saweng.