State budget: Sabah places high importance on rural tourism potential, says Joniston

KOTA KINABALU, Dec 20 — The Sabah government placed high importance on rural tourism potential when it proposed an allocation of RM17.2 million for its development in the State 2021 Budget, said state Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.

“This huge allocation is unprecedented, which proves that there is great potential in rural tourism, especially community-based tourism. The jewel of tourism is in the rural areas just waiting to be tapped,” he said in a statement after his working visit to the Walai Tobilung Cultural Stay in Kota Marudu, today.

Joniston said community-based rural tourism in Sabah had been a success so much so that several states had expressed interest in emulating its business model, and he believed that Walai Tobilung could be a model for other areas venturing into cultural and eco-tourism.

Among the key attractions at Walai Tobilung are traditional dance and music performances, Tobilung mock wedding and exhibition of traditional artefacts, as well as eco-tourism involving jungle and hill trekking.

“Our cultural heritage is one of the uniqueness of our state. It is an attraction for many foreign visitors because we have so many ethnic and sub-ethnic groups but are able to live in peace and harmony,” said Joniston, who is also Sabah Tourism Board chairman.

He said the state government’s commitment to developing rural tourism was reflected in the setting up of a joint committee between the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and the Rural Development Ministry to effectively address issues affecting the tourism sector.

In the bid to better promote agro-tourism, Joniston also suggested that the Agriculture Ministry be included in the joint committee. — Bernama

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