SPECIAL attention will be given to the homestay programme in Sarawak this year to boost the tourism industry.
Tourism Malaysia State director, Mohd Johanif Mohd Ali, said Sarawak homestays were unique as travellers would get to experience the true cultures and traditions of the various ethnic groups.
“In Sarawak, homestays can be found in the Bidayuh, Iban, Orang Ulu and Melanau villages,” he said.
He pointed out that Sarawak homestays were very popular among Malaysians from the peninsula.
“We learned that many people from Kuala Lumpur preferred the homestay programme instead of putting up in hotels because they find the homestay experience more interesting,” he said.
Johanif said the Gawai Dayak celebration and the longhouses were some of the unique features in Sarawak, but not many peninsular Malaysians had information about the celebration and the longhouses.
He said Sarawak was actually a state which had a unique mix of cultures and many wonders to see.
“These are Sarawak’s strength and niche products. So what we need to do now is to prepare a variety of activities to complement the programme.
“At the same time we also need proper co-ordination by the operators. It is important for homestay operators to co-ordinate well with tour operators who play a key role in bringing visitors to the homestay,” he said.
He said as visitors expect to be involved in local cultural activities, homestay operators should work together with tour operators.
On Tourism Malaysia’s part, he said it was planning a Megafam Programme, bringing local and foreign journalists to experience the local culture at selected homestays in Sarawak.
“We plan to sell Gawai Dayak celebration in the homestay package for this year, so we hope the operators from the Iban and Bidayuh communities could provide us with the list of activities in their villages during the celebration,” he said.
He said while all Tourism Malaysia offices in the country and abroad would help in the promotion, co-operation from travel agents and airlines would also be sought.
“Homestay operators need help from tour operators and airlines and our task is to get the people involved to work closely with each other for the success of the programme,” he said.
Johanif said the homestay programme proved to be an excellent product that could boost the economic status in villages as well as the state’s tourism industry.
He noted that the state’s homestay performance revenue was very encouraging last year and called on every player to capitalise on this strength and enhance the state’s niche products.
The homestay programme’s revenue in Sarawak last year amounted to RM455,430 compared to RM413,823 in 2008. There are 19 homestays in Sarawak registered with Tourism Malaysia.
Kampung Santubong Homestay generated the most income last year with RM137,070 followed by Kampung Annah Rais with RM75,566.
Johanif, meanwhile, assured that aggressive promotion of the homestay programme would not affect the occupancy rate of hotels in the state.
“Certainly, some tourists want to experience something via the homestay but there will still be those who prefer the familiarity of hotels,” he pointed out.