KOTA KINABALU, 20 June 2023: In a move towards community empowerment and sustainable tourism, Kiulu Farmstay, a community-based tourism project in Sabah, has transitioned from private tour company management to the capable hands of the local communities.

After eight years of being guided by Borneo Eco Tours, this shift aims to give local communities greater control over their products and foster cultural preservation.

A significant milestone was reached on Thursday by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the Sabah Tourism Board office.

The MOU, signed by Borneo Eco Tours managing director Albert Teo and villagers Sikong Moringo and Tuwin Gumporoh, marked the transfer of ownership to the villagers who are the rightful landowners of Kiulu Farmstay.

Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai and chief executive officer Noredah Othman were present to witness this transformative occasion.

Joniston, who also serves as Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment, praised Borneo Eco Tours for its visionary project, highlighting how it has served as a trailblazing model for community-based tourism in Kiulu.

“With the local communities now in charge, Kiulu Farmstay is well-positioned to offer enhanced tourism experiences. By taking ownership of their tourism initiatives, the communities can continue showcasing their unique products authentically and sustainably,” he said.

Joniston expressed confidence that this transition will bring significant economic benefits as the communities directly benefit from tourism revenue, which can be reinvested in community projects and create new employment opportunities.

In 2015, Borneo Eco Tours established the Kiulu Farmstay as a community-based ecotourism project aimed at unlocking and fostering the tourism potential of the Kiulu area. Joniston played a pivotal role in launching this remarkable venture.

The initial phase of the endeavour involved three villages: Kampung Mantob, Kampung Dumpiring, and Kampung Pinagon Baru. These villages’ communities became integral members of the Mukim Ulu Kiulu Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies (MUKEST) Society, a community-based organisation established by BEST Society, the NGO arm of Borneo Eco Tours.

For eight years, Teo said efforts were undertaken to support the communities in becoming product owners by equipping them with management, infrastructure development, and marketing skills.

“We want to make sure the communities can manage their products successfully, and we want them to have the freedom to obtain business from other (tour companies) rather than solely relying on Borneo Eco Tours so that others can support and collaborate with them.

“As the initiator, Borneo Eco Tours is happy to hand over Kiulu Farmstay assets worth more than RM270,000 to the community. We will continue to assist Kiulu Farmstay in promoting and marketing tourism products,” he stated.

Borneo Eco Tours has actively created new tourism products in Kiulu, such as the Kiulu Farmstay, Bamboo Hut Village, Borneo Quad Biking, Kiulu Homestays, guided tours, and Obstacle Course.

The company employed and trained local community leaders to do the daily operations, from homestay operations to basic bookkeeping and guiding.

Borneo Eco Tours also extended logistical support by providing transportation services for tourists to and from Kiulu while simultaneously assisting with marketing efforts through tour packaging and sales.

These comprehensive efforts aimed at capacity building, operational support, and resource provision have paved the way for the successful transition of Kiulu Farmstay into the hands of the local communities, ensuring their empowerment and long-term sustainability in the tourism industry.

For more information, visit www.sabahtourism.com.

(Source: Sabah Tourism Board)