KOTA KINABALU, 7 December 2021: Kampung Batu Puteh, a community-based tourism project, has been recognized as one of the Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO on this 1st edition of the initiative.

Funded and managed by the Batu Puteh Community Tourism Co-operative, KOPEL Bhd,  Kampung Batu Puteh beat more than 170 applications from 75 countries, a clear demonstration of its outstanding values and actions towards the development of rural tourism.

As one of the member states of the UNWTO, Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture presented the online bid that required projects have a low population density not exceeding more than 15,000 inhabitants. Other factors included a location in a landscape context that has an important presence of traditional activities such as agriculture, forestry, livestock and fishing while sharing community values and lifestyle.

Kampung Batu Puteh Community Based Tourism by KOPEL began in the year 2000 with the opening of Sabah’s first homestay programme Miso Walai Homestay. Alongside the village boat service, guide services, cultural music and dance programs, KOPEL’s forest conservation initiatives have grown into a medium-scale social enterprise that supports employment, social and environmental goals and is committed to protecting and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary that makes Sabah so unique and significant at a global scale.

“The KOPEL team were ecstatic when they heard the news, it was a huge boost to morale after 18 months of pandemic losses and zero international tourism income. We were even more excited when we received sponsorship to attend the awards ceremony with the Ministry of Tourism. KOPEL hopes this recognition helps promote rural and community-based tourism in Malaysia and help bring back international tourists, especially to Sabah and the Kinabatangan Region,” said  KOPEL Bhd CEO Martin Vogel.

“This award solidifies the efforts put in by the community of Batu Puteh and serves as a great motivation for them to continue their good efforts in sustainability,” comments Datuk Jafry Ariffn, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah.

“I am aware that Rural Tourism is not entirely a new niche segment for tourism in Sabah. However, seeing the importance of further growth and supporting such industry players, Sabah Tourism has taken the initiative to amplify promotion efforts since 2014. This resulted in Kadamaian receiving the ASEAN Community Based Tourism Award in 2019 and also the initiated Tourism Councils in each district to assist with the efforts,” he adds.

KOPEL’s Chairman Abd Sanih Bin Nasri, Deputy Chairman Mohamad Juhari Bin Kadir and conservation manager En Saidal Udin of KOPEL Bhd were partially sponsored by Sabah Tourism Board to be present in Madrid to receive the award of Best Tourism Villages, which was held during the 24th UNWTO General Assembly 2 December 2021 at the Marriott Auditorium Conference Centre in Madrid, Spain.

For more information visit: www.sabahtourism.com.

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