Three rural tourism operators in Sabah have been awarded the prestigious 2023- 2025 ASEAN Tourism Standard Award in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, further elevating the reputation of Sabah’s rural tourism products on the international stage.
The recipients are Padas Farmstay (ASEAN Community Based Tourism); Mari-Mari Cultural Village (ASEAN Community Based Tourism); and Homestay Taun Gusi (ASEAN Homestay Standard). Padas Farmstay managing director Tham Yau Kong, Mari-Mari Cultural Village base manager Jeremiah Jamson, and Homestay Taun Gusi coordinator Ismail Muile @ Muele received the awards on February 5, in conjunction with the ASEAN Tourism Forum.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister cum Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai was also present to witness the award ceremony.
He was in Yogyakarta to lead the Sabah Tourism Board delegation at the ASEAN Tourism Forum event that was held from February 3-5. “I’m delighted to be here to see Sabah’s incredible success story in rural tourism unfold. I congratulate our award recipients on their perseverance in maintaining the highest levels of product and service quality despite the challenges of the pandemic.
“The accreditation of three Sabah rural tourism products with the ASEAN Tourism Standard Award is a major boost to the international profile of Sabah’s rural tourism offerings. “This success bodes well for Sabah Tourism’s mission to help rural areas and their communities thrive off of tourism. Hopefully this will serve as inspiration for others to raise the bar and work together to make our rural area a world-class place to visit by 2030,” he remarked.
Additionally, the Sabah International Convention Centre won the ASEAN MICE Venue Award (Category Exhibition Venue), with the awarding ceremony set for next year.
Padas Farmstay in Tenom was officially established in 2017, but it has been open to the public since 2013, when international student group expressed interest in educational and community programmes.
They have received between 10 and 20 school groups per year since then, and have completed 60 community projects that have benefited 20 nearby villages.
Mari-Mari Cultural Village started operation in 2008, offering glimpse into the lives of Sabah’s rich culture with its distinctive houses, costumes and traditional skills of Sabah’s five major ethnic group.
Homestay Taun Gusi in Kota Belud is a community based homestay registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Art, and Culture in 2011. It has 18 certified homestay members, offering unique experiences to guests including cultural perfomance, horse riding, traditional cooking leaning, river cruise, Bajau parang making demonstration, and village tour, among others.
In 2014, the Sabah Tourism Board started the rural tourism initiative with two districts as pilot project to test the viability of a tourism industry serving the state’s rural areas.
The initiative has since been expanded to 25 districts, with at least 30 registered and active associations benefiting from the rural tourism development programme.
“I hope the synergy between the government sector, private sector and the community in developing rural tourism will continue to grow as we face new challenges in the post pandemic era. We hope to see more of our rural tourism products receiving international recognition,” added Joniston.
The ASEAN Tourism Standard Award is a prestigious recognition that helps support the goals of the ASEAN Tourism Standard and is in accordance with the ASEAN’s Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 in providing high quality and excellent service delivery to tourists. This is designed with the objective of making ASEAN an excellent destination on a global scale.
In previous years, Walai Penyu Conservation Park and Kadamaian Tourism Association obtained the ASEAN Sustainable Tourism Standard Award in 2022 and ASEAN Community Based Tourism Award in 2019 respectively.
Meanwhile, Sabah Tourism Board makes its presence in the 2023 ASEAN Tourism Forum, the major annual tourism event in the region, to expand prospects for ASEAN tourism marketing and potential connections between stakeholders with travel businesses in the region.
The event is attended by top industry policy makers, practitioners and suppliers of ASEAN-based tourism products and services.