Sabah Tourism Board proposes rural community tourism to UNWTO

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Tourism Board has put forward a proposal to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to emphasise more on rural community tourism.

STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai stressed the necessity of encompassing all community segments in global tourism discussions and development during the 44th UNWTO Affiliate Members Plenary Session on Monday (Oct 16).

"I propose placing a particular emphasis on rural community tourism to ensure inclusion of all community segments, particularly in developing countries, in UNWTO's tourism development and promotion agendas," he said.

"In Sabah, Malaysia, we have been vigorously advocating for rural tourism as a means of empowering rural communities to benefit from tourism, not just urban areas,” added Bangkuai.

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Bangkuai said this approach also serves as an alternative income source for the rural population and a catalyst for fostering cooperation within these communities to develop tourism within their area, but also generate awareness on the need to protect the environment.

He led a delegation of STB board members and management staff to the 25th UNWTO General Assembly in Samarkand, a city in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The Plenary Session was officiated by UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and presided by affiliate members chairperson Mar de Miguel.

It is the top governing body for affiliate members, providing a robust framework to debate on the state of affiliate membership, analyse UNWTO's Programme of Work, and share ideas for future projects.

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During this session, Bangkuai highlighted that Sabah is one of three destinations worldwide to boast a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) triple crown site.

This status was conferred following the declaration of Kinabalu National Geopark as The Kinabalu Unesco Global Geopark on May 24 this year, he said.

Prior to this, Unesco declared it as a World Heritage Site on December 2, 2000 and the Unesco Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve was proclaimed on June 12, 2014.

Other locations with this prestigious Unesco triple crown status are Jeju Island in Korea and Shennongjia in China.

"This UN recognition is significant, and I believe UNWTO should intervene to explore how it can support us,” said Bangkuai.

"It's a recognition we should capitalise on to promote tourism on a global scale," he added.

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