KOTA KINABALU: Favourite ecotourism destination Ranau is set to become a reference point for other districts in Sabah to develop their nature tourism products.
Despite experiencing a magnitude 6 earthquake two years ago that took 18 lives, Ranau is still enjoying its status as a top holiday destination with attractions such as Southeast Asia’s highest peak Mount Kinabalu, the Poring Hotspring, Kinabalu Park, Kundasang War Memorial, Paragliding Park, Sabah Tea Garden and newcomer Rabbit Garden, among others.
Three other districts, Kiulu, Tambunan and Kadamaian, will soon follow in Ranau’s footsteps.
Towards this end, the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) recently launched a Rural Tourism Roadshow showcasing these four districts as the states’ pioneer destinations for “lung-washing” or clear air nature tourism.
Ranau has been a tourist destination for many years, and the other three districts have a lot to learn from it.
“It’s good for Tambunan, Kiulu and Kedamaian to leverage Ranau’s competitive edge and success,” STB chairman Joniston Bangkuai told FMT.
“Rural tourism, where the focus is to engage with the community to co-develop those rural tourism products, is still progressing in all districts in Sabah.
“Thus, leveraging each other’s strengths is a must for all districts moving forward.”
Tourism is Sabah’s main revenue generator, and ecotourism has the potential to be a major contributor to the industry.
“We believe Sabah’s ecotourism or nature-based tourism has the potential to become a major contributor to the state’s overall tourism industry,” Joniston said.
“We must remember that ecotourism means we are not focusing on profit alone, but also on conservation and benefits to the local communities.
“Thus, ecotourism plays a role to synergise with the other types of tourism in Sabah.
“Ecotourism takes place all over Sabah. If you embrace the definition, it takes place even in far-flung places like Long Pasia.
“The generally unspoilt nature and environment in the rural areas are our hidden tourism gems which could emerge as popular ‘lung-washing’ destinations for both local and international tourists.”
Urban tourism will not be forgotten either, with places such as the capital city of Kota Kinabalu being a hotspot for tourists.
“We have 26 districts in Sabah and the roadshow held recently will continue until the rest of the districts have the opportunity to showcase their rural tourism products,” said Joniston.
“Furthermore, it is STB’s aim to promote both urban and rural tourism products in Sabah which makes the state a vibrant destination.”