Historical tourism often takes a back seat and what is often talked about is the uniqueness and natural beauty of this state, said Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, here.
He said because of focusing too much on promoting the beauty of nature and forgetting that Sabah’s historical treasures are equally valuable and should be promoted.
He emphasised the importance of promoting Sabah’s historical tourism, particularly focusing on the important events of the liberation of Sabah or North Borneo before taking the name of Sabah from colonialism and its agreement to merge to form Malaysia.
"Commemorating the struggle of Sabah or North Borneo against colonialism and then achieving its own independence is to honour the perseverance and courage of the people of Sabah who endured hardships during challenging times.
"Countries like South Korea and Vietnam have successfully capitalised on their war history, which can attract millions of tourists who want to understand their past.
"Sabah can also attract history buffs, academics and travellers who are curious or interested in the state’s history," he said while speaking at the History @ Sabah Museum programme at the Oath Stone grounds of the Interior Region Heritage Museum here recently.
The programme was inaugurated by the Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Industry, Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.
According to him, the story of Sabah’s agreement to join Malaysia is an important part of Sabah’s history, where the events that led to the formation of Malaysia in 1963.
He said this includes the Cobbold Commission and the referendum in which the people of Sabah chose to be part of Malaysia. An important narrative promoting pre-historic sites related to this, such as this Oath Stone, can give insight into the political and social factors that shaped Sabah.
Joniston said places related to this formation effort can be interesting places for tourists who seek a deeper understanding of the state’s evolution.
He said Sabah has a rich, interesting history that should be celebrated and shared with the world by aggressively promoting historical tourism. Sabah not only respects its past but also creates opportunities for economic growth and cultural exchange.
"As I said earlier, countries like South Korea and Vietnam have shown how accepting historical narratives can improve the tourism industry.
Let us all recognise the value of Sabah’s history as a tourism asset and work towards a brighter future for the state’s tourism industry.
"I would like to state here that recently the Sabah Tourism Board has adopted the tagline Feel Sabah North Borneo, which is also part of our efforts so that the outside world and we in Malaysia know that once upon a time we used to call our country North Borneo but now Sabah.
"So we have to understand all this and in terms of tourism aspects, when we promote Sabah, not many people know where Sabah is.
But when we just say North Borneo, tourists in Europe and the United Kingdom just recognise where Sabah is.
"Borneo is better known and we have to distinguish Sabah as North Borneo. Soon, the capital of Indonesia will be in Kalimantan, in Borneo, so we have competition.
"From now on, we should try to name North Borneo other than Sabah to tell tourists, especially from abroad, where this state is. We must honour this historical name of North Borneo, even though there are also some who do not agree, but the fact is, this is history," he said.
Joniston said the History @ Sabah Museum programme was held in conjunction with Malaysia Day as part of the celebration to commemorate this Malaysia Day because we already know that the Keningau Heritage Museum is the guardian of the important history of the formation of Malaysia, the Commemorative Oath Stone.
He said this monument has great importance as a symbol of community unity in the process of forming Malaysia based on the Malaysian Agreement of 1963 (MA63).
This historical monument plays a very important role in researching and appreciating the historical heritage of Sabah, especially among the people in the interior.
"I believe that a programme like this has the potential to stimulate the spirit of unity and solidarity among the community by fostering noble values and love for the state of Sabah that we love," he said.
He said the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment is committed to targeting more domestic and international tourist visits to the state, and the uniqueness and cultural diversity of the historical heritage found in the state has the potential to become a product of Sabah tourism attractions.
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