Negri Sembilan plans to tap into its eco-tourism potential to draw more tourists, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.
He said the state had much to offer in terms of homestays and forest reserves apart from its beautiful beaches. Despite that, its tourism potential was often overlooked.
“Our economy is dependent on industries. Tourism contributes less than 5% of our Gross Domestic Product.
“Tapping into our eco-tourism potential is among our efforts to strengthen and improve the industry.
“Our proximity to Kuala Lumpur is a plus and we have managed to attract foreign investors here, which in turn has led to consistent economic growth.
“However, because Negri Sembilan is such a small state, people often drive through it and we want to change this,” he added.
Mohamad said to enhance its tourism sector, the state had to find its own niche.
“We have our unique culture and traditions as well as forests waiting to be explored.
“We don’t have to compete with others, when we already have our own strengths, among them homestays,” he added.
In recent years, homestays have become one of the most successful tourism products in the state, contributing more than RM1mil in turnover annually over the past three years.
Homestay is a programme where visitors stay with local families to learn about the culture and lifestyle of that particular community.
Since homestays were launched in the state, the programme has been quite a success with tourists and foreign university students keen to immerse themselves in the local culture.
“We have 14 homestays and each one offers a different experience.
“In Kampung Lonek, Jempol, visitors can experience harvesting rice, while in Kampung Pachitan, Port Dickson — one of our most popular homestays — tourists get to learn about traditional Javanese customs as villagers are mostly Javanese descendents,” said Mohamad, who joined the StarMetro team during a visit to Sogo Homestay in Kampung Sega, Rantau.
Aside from boosting tourism and encouraging cross cultural exchange, he added that homestays also allowed locals to earn additional income.
“Here in the newly-launched Sogo Homestay, with its orchards and a nearby river, visitors can learn about traditional kampung life. There aren’t many places where you can experience that,” he said.
Mohamad said plans were under way to upgrade recreational facilities at several eco-tourism spots.
“We will be refurbishing recreational facilities at several spots including Ulu Bendol, Jeram Toi and Lata Kijang.
“The only lowland tropical forest in the country in Sungai Menyala, Port Dickson, will be open to visitors soon,” he said, adding that the emphasis was to conserve the natural environment and not to build multi-storey hotels.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor in a traditional kampung house, StarMetro team feasted on hot and spicy Negri Sembilan-style Malay cuisine, including ikan masak lemak cili api and fresh fruits as well as tapai pulut for dessert.
Village head Abdul Aziz Ahmad said visitors who wanted to experience village life in Kampung Sega could choose from two packages.
“We have a one-day programme that costs RM80 per person and a two-day, one-night programme that costs RM150 per person,” he said.
A one-day programme includes a traditional welcoming ceremony, cultural performances, a glimpse into village activities and local delicacies for lunch.
If you are lucky enough to visit during the fruit season, you will be able to sample durian, rambutan, mangosteen and other fruits grown at the orchards.
The two-day, one-night programme offers visitors a guided night tour of the village, fishing, traditional games like lari upih and baling tin as well as cultural performances.