NOT many people have innovative ideas to promote Sarawak to the outside world but doing it through organising experiential learning trips could be an interesting way to woo foreign tourists, particularly the young ones.
And showing the way is Borneo To The World (BTTW) chief executive offi cer Azri Abdul Rahman who plans to woo young tourists by organising EDUCORE (ecoeducational) trips – the fi rst here – with the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientifi c and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
For starters, the 40-year-old enterprising businessman will bring in a group of 40 student leaders from the Hwa Chong International School of Singapore some time in December this year.
These upper secondary students will stay at Bako International Park in conjunction with their school holidays.
Throughout their stay, the students will be introduced to the unique features of the local natural forest reserves and national parks by BTTW and their partners – Unesco and the state tourism authorities – as part of their experiential learning programme.
“Their trip to Sarawak will be an interesting holiday and learning experience” Azri enthused.
The upcoming nature conservation awareness programme will be undertaken by his family company as part of its business concepts and plans.
Based on his enthusiastic approach to wooing tourists to the state, it’s small wonder his company will also be introducing Sarawak’s fi rst ever range of locally produced bar soaps which coincidentally carries the Borneo To The World brand name.
Educating the public
According to Azri, the project is aimed at creating public awareness of the importance of conservation as well as educating the younger generation on the subject.
“We are planning to organise the ecoeducational trips by working hand in hand with the Sarawak Tourism Board, the Tourism Ministry and other authorities concerned” he said of the project which has generated keen interest from Unesco and the Malaysia National Commission for Unecso which are now BTTW partners.
“They will help us by providing the manpower to lead the trips and the materials needed to disseminate information among the participants,” he added.
The project targets students at upper secondary school and university levels.
Azri hoped the participating top grade school students would become future environmental champions with a mission to spread the message that rainforests must be jointly conserved as our planet’s living lungs.
That’s why the places to covered during the programme include Bako National Park – and also Mulu soon.
According to Azri, Bako is selected as the main venue this year because it’s a world heritage site at our own backyard and also near the award-winning Sarawak Cultural Village and the seaside resort of Pantai Damai, Santubong.
He is optimistic the upcoming project will be well received by the targetmarket because not many people in the world have the opportunity or privilege to experience this kind of learning experience in their own land because they may be growing up or living in a “concrete jungle.”
“We hope the big boys like Petronas, Shell or even our local partners such as Pustaka Negeri Sarawak, will join us in making this programme a success as well as an annual affair with more participation from Asean countries.”
Azri said the idea to set up the family business – BTTW – was not so much about selling a product or service to consumers as encouraging them to adopt the 3Rs concept of recycling, reusing and reducing where the emphasis is on the need to play their role in protecting and conserving the environment.
“We want people to think about the environment fi rst – how they can make use of the raw materials found in abundance in Nature. We don’t want to destroy these materials – we want to tell people they can use the materials over and over again.”
As such, his company has embarked on the novel business of producing hand-made soaps with ingredients from local plants, herbs and fruits found in Nature and are unique to Sarawak.
The raw ingredients include Dabai, Lemongrass, Bario rice, sago stem, pepper, kacangma leaf, tamarind and kaffi r lime which are something new to the soap making industry.
Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg who launched the eco-based products on May 3, expressed confi dence they would be well-received by present-day health-conscious consumers.
Helping farmers, smallholders Through the soap-making business, BTTW is also aiming to help locals, particularly smallholders and farmers, by providing them a sustainable income through the supply of raw materials for the company’s factory at Bako.
“We want to tell these smallholders and farmers not to destroy their crops because there will be something sustainable coming for them,” Azri said.
His company is making efforts to help sustain the livelihood of local farmers who plant Dabai fruits tress in Kapit, Julau and Kanowit.
According to him, the company will buy the local materials from the farmers and smallholders so that there is no need for them to cut down their fruit trees or change crops just because they are facing bad times.
As part of its corporate social obligations to the local community, BTTW is aiming to provide equal employment opportunities to the less fortunate and currently employing four deaf and dumb workers at its factory in Bako.
“We want to create a synergy between the company, the government and the local community. This will be the main pillar of BTTW’s business agenda,”Azri said.