The perfect setting for a workshop with WWF Malaysia’s Community Officers – lush green forested areas, cool temperatures and an array of wildlife and flora. The Wild Asia tourism team and Sandra Tagal, director of Borneo Jungle Safari’s was invited to speak at the “Community Based Eco-Tourism workshop” in Frasers Hill on 27-29 June 2012. The two-day workshop saw 15 people from all walks of life coming together to share a common vision and passion – to see communities empowered to venture into alternative source of livelihood via tourism.
Community Officers set the tone at the start of the workshop by giving the team and their colleagues an overview of their project site, initiatives, challenges and lessons learnt. Each took pride in sharing their experiences and each shared a common empathy on the struggles faced when dealing with communities.
A few success stories surfaced from the sharing and among them were the engagement with tourism operators in Kinabatangan, Sabah. Programme Officer, Lavernita Bingku talked about her two year journey in putting a conservation and visitor levy for the Kinabatangan, the second longest river in Malaysia that is steadily growing in tourist numbers and businesses. Kick-starting the implementation of the Conservation Levy Programme was no easy feat; however with the right authorities supporting and continuous support and effort from the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Tourism Operators (KiTA) themselves, the Conservation Levy Programme was successfully implemented. Through the levy, they’ve raised a substantial amount that will be used for conservation efforts in the within the area.
Another amazing story was that of PEWANIS, a local women’s entrepreneurs group in a coastal village in Setiu, Terengganu. WWF was involved in identifying members for this group and further identifying avenues for secondary source of income for these women. The group started producing banana chips for sale. Although the chips were selling well, profits were not enough to sustain the growing number of women in the group. So, WWF and PEWANIS came together to rehash and agreed on offering low impact nature tourism products and activities to tourists. Strategically located on the coastal front, the village has astounding views of the sea and is easily accessible via boat. There are also major hotels around the area setting the scene for healthy flow of tourists. The women developed and marketed tourism activities such as mangrove tree planting, environmental education activities, kite making and cooking classes. Currently, the group is going strong and all efforts are fully developed and managed independently by the community.
After listening to inspiring stories from around the country, Wild Asia’s associate programme manager, Deborah Chan shared on concepts of community based tourism and eco tourism. She highlighted case studies from around Asia of community led and managed tourism projects. She drew examples from Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Award winners and finalists. Among them was Ecosphere, a secluded hilltop village in Spiti, India who successfully established a tourism business that generates half of the community’s income annually, Andaman Discoveries, initially a relief aid NGO set up in Thailand after the tsunami and now a very effective tour operator with responsible community based tourism projects across Thailand. Wild Asia’s responsible tourism coordinator, Amy McLoughlin also enlightened the group with her experiences with two grassroots community projects in India – Kabani Homestays and Agri Tourism India.
Community officers learnt the ingredients that make successful community projects and tools to monitor and measure these successes using standards like the Global Sustainable Criteria (GSTC) and the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Checklist. They also learned the importance of communicating their lessons learnt and ways to market tourism products in order to ensure transparency and profitability.
[pullquote style="left" quote="dark"]Passion and heart for the community are the very essence that determines the success or failure of a community project. People must come first…[/pullquote]
Reflecting on the two-day workshop, Liza Jaafar who’s overseeing a turtle project in Malacca and hoping to develop the destination for turtle tourism expressed that tourism is far more complicated then she thought and she now understands that tourism is a volatile industry and hence it needs to go hand-in-hand with other innovate sources of income.
Another participant, Jennifer Matthew said, “I have learned so much from this workshop particularly the need to involve all members of the community when it comes to decision making and to ensure equitable distribution of wealth. I will take this lessons learnt and implement them for future projects in the highlands of Bario, Sarawak.”
Among the results of the workshop was healthy dialogue about how to introduce tourism into existing community initiatives and ways to establish positive working partnerships with industry players. Wild Asia hopes to partner with WWF to create sustainable community based tourism projects in Malaysia. This two-day workshop is a foretaste of (hopefully) greater collaboration.
View the slides presented by Wild Asia on Community Based Tourism (CBT). It outlines basic concepts CBT in the context of environmental conservation, economic benefit and development of local communities with case studies of our previous Responsible Tourism. Responsible CBT projects can produce revenues for local communities and improve local attitudes towards conservation. If you would like to engage Wild Asia for future talks or workshops, please contact email@example.com.[Download not found]