KOTA KINABALU: After being declared a national geopark in March 2020, the 4,750 sq km Kinabalu Geopark is on track to be recognised as a Unesco Global Geopark site as early as next year.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin (pic) said the national recognition qualified Kinabalu Geopark - comprising Kinabalu Park and the districts of Kota Belud, Kota Marudu and Ranau - to be listed as Aspiring Kinabalu Unesco Global Geopark.
"It is awaiting evaluation as a Unesco Global Geopark in July or August this year.
"I believe the site, with its outstanding international geological values, will pass the evaluation process and its status will be declared formally, hopefully in 2022," he said during an international seminar on Aspiring Kinabalu Unesco Global Geopark on Thursday (March 25).
Unesco Global Geoparks are defined as single, unified geographical areas where landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.
Efforts to put Kinabalu Geopark in the global geopark map started over a decade ago, where the idea to nominate the site as Unesco geopark was raised in 2010.
The seminar, which had both physical and virtual participation worldwide, is also one of the steps to aid the Kinabalu Unesco Global Geopark status advancement, Jafry added.
Meanwhile, talking to reporters later, he said spillover effects on local communities in the area can be expected once they gain the Unesco status, but did not elaborate further.
On another development, Jafry said so far only two tourism operators had been allowed to use the "travel bubble" activities based on protocols set.
They were the previously announced Sutera Harbour Resorts (plying the KK - Kota Belud route for their premises in Mantanani Island), as well as Scuba Junkie based in Semporna.
"This means they can accept (domestic) tourists from other zones.
"While we welcome and encourage the Federal Government's call for travel bubbles for tourism, the Sabah government has relaxed movement by zones, so maybe we do not need this so much except for those travelling outside their zones," he added.