Kampung Batu Puteh of Sabah’s Lower Kinabatangan River was awarded the inaugural Best Tourism Village Award by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in Madrid, Spain.
The official announcement and awards ceremony yesterday was attended by Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri and Chairman of the Batu Puteh Community Ecotourism Cooperative Abdul Sanih Nasri, who received the award from UNWTO secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili.
The Batu Puteh community is made up of local rural people, fisherfolk and farmers, and the ministry, in a statement today, said the village-based community cooperative, which encompasses a number of ecotourism ventures and conservation initiatives, has more than 350 members and cooperative shareholders.
The joint venture led by the Model Ecologically Sustainable Community and Tourism (Mescot) together with the award-winning Miso Walai Homestay offers an organised community-based cultural tourism experience, the statement said.
Following the prestigious award, Nancy said that Batu Puteh is a successful model of Responsible Rural Tourism, Ecotourism and Community Based Tourism, which Malaysia continues to promote extensively.
“This tourism niche is one of the country’s main areas of strength considering the abundance of natural assets, heritage and cultural diversity with which we are blessed,” Nancy said.
For Malaysia, she said the global pandemic crisis had presented an opportunity for a new beginning as there is a rising interest in “second city” travel and the exploration of lesser-known destinations.
“I believe this is the best time to promote hidden gems in our countryside, as tourists are expected to prefer nature-based destinations with a laid-back lifestyle and plenty of fresh air,” Nancy added.
The minister also commended UNWTO for its introduction of timely initiatives for such awards.
“These awards and recognition programmes will go a long way to infusing a greater sense of purpose and pride among the homegrown small and micro enterprises which make up the majority of tourism enterprises in the Asia-Pacific region,” Nancy concluded.
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