Tuesday, December 7

Homestay tourism – a burgeoning sector in attracting more tourists

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Annah Rais Bidayuh Longhouse offers unique homestay experiences

One of the most popular local homestay in Kuching is the well-known Annah Rais Bidayuh Longhouse located in the Borneo Highland area, some 60kms from the city centre.

It has a written history of being in existence for 175 years where about eight generations of family members have lived there and the heritage still continues up to today.

The BizHive Weekly got hold of the person in charge, Sarah Lim to reveal the attractions that make Annah Rais Longhouse such a household name for homestays.

When asked what was the intriguing part that made Annah Rais homestay a highly recommended place for guests to experience, Lim said the homestay especially the villagers were always ready to serve any guests that came and provided a traditional, simple and laid-back environment for the guests to feel like it was their ‘home away from home.’ “Guests who stay with us will be assured of fun-filled and exciting activities where we include them to join us in living a traditional way of life which include them helping us with farming, hunting, picking up fern leaves and bamboo shoots to be made as vegetable dishes, join in our cultural dances and many other interesting nature-oriented activities,” she explained.

Lim mentioned that there was not much capital needed to start up the homestay business, but they (the homestay operators) would have to prepare mentally and physically to give their guests the best experience while staying with them.

In terms of the growth of the homestay business locally, she reasoned that because Annah Rais homestay was located not far from the city centre and with the aggressive promotion made by the homestay, they managed to attract tourists whenever they stepped foot in the Kuching International Airport, that was how the homestay received more international tourists.

“During the month of the school holidays, there are many guests from Singapore and Malaysia, however from June to September, there are more foreign tourists visiting the longhouse.

So, I would say it pretty much depends on the season, some months are just very quiet and we hardly have anyone stay with us,” Lim disclosed.

“Revenue wise, it is just good enough for those who are involved in the homestay programme to make a simple living in the village,” she said when asked about the economic impact of the homestay on the villagers.

She said that many people who came from other parts of the world were pretty much fascinated by the culture of Sarawak and its vast biodiversity and nature reserves , thanks to Sarawak Tourism Board’s (STB) efforts in promoting this culture to the world.

“When they visit our homestays, they just want to experience the traditional way that our people live here in Sarawak and they want to experience first-hand as well as immerse themselves in the native culture, hence our homestay programme is their best pick,” she added.

When asked what were the long-term goals for Annah Rais homestay and if there would be any upgrading or renovations to stay one notch up from other homestays in Kuching, Lim explained that instead of being competitive by just upgrading and doing renovations, maintaining the original culture was much more important to the villagers and the community of Annah Rais village.

“They hope more people will come to know about their culture, and it is definitely something very unique that can attract local and overseas tourists.

Experiencing staying at the longhouse the way the villagers live is an eye-opener,” she enthused.

In terms of economic activity, Lim said that it would not increase their incomes tremendously, as the villagers could earned more income if they worked in the city, however what was more important to them was that they could stay in their own ‘homes’ without leaving the village, preserving and maintaining their culture whilst also make a living from it (the homestay).

“STB has been a great help in this area I must say, however it needs to look at the overall big picture and we do not expect it to hold our hands.

Apart from the support and encouragement that is given to us, every homestay owner should be able to contribute to the process and as far as promotions are concerned, every home stay owner s should take their own initiatives to promote and package their homestays in more attractive ways,” she said.

“I urge everyone in Sarawak to also do their part to maintain all our unique cultures, traditional heritage, natural environments and the biodiversity habitat of animals and plants regard less of any race because Sarawak is a very beautiful and unique state and we all should be proud of this,” she concluded.

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