KOTA KINABALU: Three rural tourism operators in Sabah have been bestowed prestigious 2023-2025 Asean Tourism Standard Awards.
Padas Farmstay and Mari-Mari Cultural Village were given the Asean Community-Based Tourism award while Homestay Taun Gusi picked up the Asean Homestay Standard award.
Padas Farmstay managing director Tham Yau Kong, Mari-Mari Cultural Village base manager Jeremiah Jamson and Homestay Taun Gusi coordinator Ismail Muile received the awards in conjunction with the Asean Tourism Forum in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on Sunday (Feb 5).
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State Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said the awards strengthen Sabah's growing international reputation for rural tourism.
"I'm delighted to see Sabah's incredible success story in rural tourism unfold.
"I congratulate our award recipients on their perseverance in maintaining the highest level of product and service quality despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The accreditation of three Sabah rural tourism products with the Asean Tourism Standard Awards is a major boost to the international profile of Sabah's rural tourism offerings," said Bangkuai, who led the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) delegation at the tourism forum, held from Friday (Feb 3) to Sunday.
Bangkuai, the STB chairman, said the awards augured well for Sabah Tourism's mission to help rural areas and their communities thrive on tourism.
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"Hopefully, this will inspire others to raise the bar and work together to make our rural areas world-class destinations by 2030," he said in a statement on Monday (Feb 6).
The Asean Tourism Standard awards are presented in line with the grouping's Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 for quality and excellent service to tourists.
The objective is to make Asean an excellent destination on a global scale.
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 an international student group expressed interest in educational and community programmes.
It has hosted between 10 and 20 school groups per year since then, and completed 60 community projects that benefitted 20 nearby villages.
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Mari-Mari Cultural Village started operations in 2008, offering a glimpse into Sabah's rich culture with its distinctive houses, costumes and traditional skills of the state's five major ethnic groups.
Homestay Taun Gusi in Kota Belud is a community-based homestay registered with the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry in 2011.
It has 18 certified homestay members offering unique experiences to guests including cultural performance, horse riding, traditional cooking, river cruise, Bajau parang-making demonstration and village tour, among others.