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Sabah's beautiful nature drawing outsiders: Don
Published on: Friday, December 12, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: People from outside the country continue to be very interested to visit Sabah because of nature which is generally still untouched and not much different from some years ago. This thus shows how important it is for Sabah to conserve its beautiful nature and natural biodiversity, the eco-tourism products, while developing further the State's tourism industry, said Deputy Head of Sustainable Tourism Research Cluster of the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Penang, Dr Azizan Marzuki.

"We need to continue developing Sabah's tourism products. But it is important that, while we develop further the State's tourism industry, we do not harm the natural environment," he told reporters when met at a welcoming dinner hosted by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun for the delegates of the Fourth International Conference on Tourism Research (4ICTR) at the Pacific Sutera, here, Wednesday.

Dr Azizan said that was among some findings of research works which they are doing and concentrated at the Mount Kinabalu and Kinabatangan areas.

"In Mount Kinabalu areas, our studies are focused on eco-tourism, the physical perception and assessment on some tourism products…we do some inventories on the quality of tourism products, gather the perception or opinions from visitors whether they like or not the tourism products, and so on," he said.

Commending Sabah Parks for a job well done in preserving and maintaining the forest reserves under their care, he said a study is also being done at one of the homestays near the mountain which attracts many international tourists because it is surrounded by real jungle of Borneo and that the visitors have an opportunity to learn about the local people, their culture and heritage during their stay there, which is something hard to find nowadays not only in Malaysia but also in Southeast Asia.

Their research in Kinabatangan area is focused on how the tourism industry can help the local citizens in terms of bringing improvement to their economic status and employment, said Dr Azizan, who sees Kinabatangan as another potential main tourist destination in Sabah.

"I would recommend that since the people know Sabah for its beautiful nature, the Mount Kinabalu, the islands, the eco-tourism products, we must conserve all these and, at the same time, we need to further develop the tourism industry," he said.

The research works are part of efforts to develop a framework for rural tourism development in the country, said Dr Azizan, who is also the USM programme chairman for urban planning and tourism and co-chairperson of the 4ICTR.

The three-day 4ICTR, themed "Rural Mountain Tourism: Preserving Culture and Heritage of Mountain Minorities and Indigenous Peoples", is jointly organised by Sustainable Tourism Research Cluster, a research unit of the said school and the Hotel and Tourism Management Faculty of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Sabah, in conjunction with the International Mountain Day.

UiTM Sabah's Hotel and Tourism Management Faculty's lecturer, Tania Maria Tangit, who is also 4ICTR co-chairperson, said altogether there are 181 people, about half of them from foreign countries, participating in the conference.

She said the event is a platform for discussions and exchanges of ideas between tourism professionals, academia, researchers, policy-makers, consultants, practitioners, government officials and postgraduate students from all tourism-related fields.

The topics focused are mountain tourism, rural tourism, eco-tourism, cultural tourism, heritage tourism, tourism marketing, sustainable tourism, green tourism and dark tourism, among others.

"We also hope this event provide continuous promotion of Sabah…most of our delegates are extending their stays as it happens this is festive season," said Tania.

The 4ICTR organisers and Sabah Parks also co-hosted the International Mountain Day (IMD) celebration at Kinabalu Park on Thursday, to commemorate the existence of the park since 50 years ago (1964-2014).

Unesco Asia and the Pacific Director Prof. Hubert Gijzen was also present.



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