Gastronomy tourism to empower Hakka community in Tenom

Bangkuai (three from left) launching the opening of Tenom Hakka Farmstay operated by Lawrence Wong (2nd right). Also pictured is Sabah Cultural Board deputy chairman Stanis Buandi (left).

KOTA KINABALU: One of Sabah’s largest sub-ethnic Chinese groups, the Hakka people are hopping on the gastronomy tourism bandwagon to promote local Hakka cuisines and culture.

This initiative will start from a group of over 30 Hakka families in Sabah’s interior Tenom district.

This was made known during a recent opening of a Hakka farm stay at Kampung Lagud, where local entrepreneur Lawrence Wong explained that this new community tourism product was a first step forward in the process of empowering the Hakka community there.

Kampung Lagud is home to about 30 Hakka families, all are farmers with an eye toward turning their area into Lagud Hakka Cultural and Farms Village.

Wong, who frequently travelled for business, said he returned to Tenom to establish a farm stay after being motivated to do so by several successful communities and rural tourism stories.

“This is not something I will undertake on my own because teamwork is essential for moving the community forward and empowering the village through tourism,” he said during the event on Sunday (Sept 25).

“We are confident that the Sabah Tourism Board will assist the Hakka community here as this will surely boost our confidence to participate in tourism success,” he said.

Wong's farm stay collaborates with other Hakka farmers and restaurateurs to provide authentic meals for visitors to sample.

It also provides visitors the opportunity to learn about local crops with Tenom being well-known for agro-tourism and encourages guests to tour neighbouring farms run by the villagers.

Sabah Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who is also STB chairman, said expanding gastronomic tourism in this interior district would allow Tenom to capitalise on the demand for authentic Hakka experiences.

“This is a good start to elevate the Hakka community and I see the potential of expanding this effort to other districts, where there is a Hakka population.

“STB sees this as an effort to bring in more tourists, especially the Chinese, and I am confident this authentic experience will become a hit not only for tourists but also locals,” he added.

Entrepreneur Tham Yau Kong, who runs Padas Farmstay, opined that food tourism was a significant segment that has the potential to attract returning customers.

“Having been in the (tourism) industry for so long, I want to share the successful experience I have gained and help the local Chinese communities here because they are rich in culture, tradition and heritage,” he said.

He said Tenom Hakka food has been around for decades but little has been done to market it.

He hoped that the Kudat district, which also has a sizable Hakka population, would be inspired by the initiative taken by Tenom's Hakka community as well.

According to the 2020 census report, there are some 248,920 Chinese people (or 7.3% the total Sabah population) in Sabah, out of which the majority are the Hakkas.

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Sabah , Hakka , Gastronomy Tourism , Culture , Tenom


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