Management Committee For Lower Kinabatangan Tourism

KOTA KINABALU: The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment will re-visit the proposal to set up a management committee to effectively oversee planning, development and management of Lower Kinabatangan as a premier competitive and sustainable ecotourism destination.

Its Minister Datuk Christina Liew stressed that it is high time to move towards realisation of the much-anticipated committee that will consist of all stakeholders of Lower Kinabatangan.

“No more making proposals at this stage, please. It’s time for implementation. Much time has passed since 2019 when I launched the International Conference on Sustainable Growth and Practices, and we have to act now to form the multi-stakeholders management committee with the aim of consolidating Lower Kinabatangan as a premier sustainable ecotourism destination.

“Don’t wait any longer. You already have the holistic framework and guidelines for sustainable ecotourism development and operations at Lower Kinabatangan, the ecotourism experiential framework (for unique ecotourism experiences for tourists) as well as the framework for practices of responsible tourism.

“Globally, governments and tourism players are giving emphasis to sustainable and responsible tourism, and Sabah is no exception,” Liew said during a recent courtesy call by a delegation from the Kinabatangan-Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association, Sabah (KiTA) led by its President Alex Yee.

Yee and Professor Dr Jennifer Chan, who is also  Director of the Borneo Tourism Research Centre (BTRC), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), briefed the minister on the collaborative work between BTRC and KiTA to explore the potential of Lower Kinabatangan as a competitive and sustainable ecotourism destination under a Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2017.

A matching research project to collect data from tourists, tour operators and the local community was completed in 2019, and the award-winning book entitled “Lower Kinabatangan Premier Competitive Sustainable Ecotourism Destination” was published by UMS in 2020 with support from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment.

Describing Lower Kinabatangan as a pioneering destination in Malaysia for the research project, Prof Dr Chan said : “The book (useful to tourism stakeholders) showcases the importance of sustainable destination development by providing essential knowledge, guidelines, practices and framework of sustainability in tourism business.

“The Ministry’s support demonstrates its commitment to spearhead the green and sustainable growth of Lower Kinabatangan as a sustainable ecotourism destination.”

Congratulating Project Leader Prof Dr Chan and her team on winning the National Book Award 2022 (Higher Studies Award : Best Sustainable Environment Book Category), Liew urged KiTA and UMS to implement the findings of their research project. “This is to strengthen the sustainability of Lower Kinabatangan to make this wildlife tourism destination a visitable and liveable place.”

The Minister noted that since its formation in 2009, KiTA has been working tirelessly together with her ministry and other relevant government agencies to achieve its mission, which is to promote and implement a globally recognised sustainable tourism plan of action within the Kinabatangan-Corridor of Life that is beneficial for its People, the Planet and for Mutual Profit (3Ps).

At the meeting, Yee viewed that it is vital for Kinabatangan to spearhead the revival of tourism activities in the east coast of Sabah as tourists coming to Kinabatangan often enter via Sandakan and also visit surrounding areas like Sepilok, Tabin and Danum Valley.

According to him, the estimated value of these tourism activities is said to be RM140-RM180 million yearly. “It is therefore imperative for the Ministry to ensure tourism activities and programmes are conducted in a sustainable and responsible manner,” he asserted.

It was also an occasion for Yee to introduce the Chairman of Wildlife Tourism Australia, Dr Ronda Green to the minister, and update her on collaboration between KiTA and Wildlife Tourism Australia. Dr Green had visited several lodges operated by KiTA members, and gathered information on how wildlife watching had been conducted in Lower Kinabatangan.

On her next visit, Dr Ronda will conduct an upskill training workshop to introduce wildlife tourism components and experiences, to develop the standard operating procedure (SOP) for conducting wildlife tourism, and to identify key areas for sustainable and responsible tourism practices.

The key participants will be local guides, lodge operators, local tourism stakeholders, district officers, personnel from the Forestry and Wildlife Departments as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Also present were the Ministry’s Deputy Permanent Secretary I Mary Malangking, Borneo Eco Tours Managing Director Albert Teo and KiTA Executive Coordinator Aileen Mae Montero.

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