Sun, 10 Dec 2023



Asean award for Padas Farmstay Tenom
Published on: Sunday, November 20, 2022
By: Kan Yaw Chong
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A UK student group at Padas Farmstay. At left is Tham Yau Kong, at right is brother Yau Siong.
THIS is the latest tourism award news. Padas Farmstay Tenom has been picked winner of the Asean Community-based Tourism Standard award 2023-25.

In a letter from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture dated 14 November, Padas Farmstay Managing Director, Tham Yau Kong, was notified to represent Malaysia to receive the award in Yogyakarta, Java, February 2-5, 2023. 

“I feel very good that we have done something for the communities who need help,” Tham said.

“Sometimes Community-based tourism prevents nature from being destroyed when villagers realise they need their rivers and forests for tourism,” he added, citing the original forests around the site of the historic February 1915 Rundum rebellion, has been ear-marked for conservation upon strong local feeling. 

A main engine of growth cannot be ignored 

As a reminder, the pre-Covid worth of tourism in 2019 was US$1.7 trillion, or 6.8pc of total imports and creation of one in four new jobs, according to World Travel and Tourism Council.  

It is undeniable tourism is the backbone of many an economy.

UK student group being welcomed to Kg Baru Jumpa Tengah by village women clad in traditional Lundayeh costumes.

UK students in participatory traditional Lundayeh dance in Kg Baru Jumpa Tengah.

The state award in 2017 that led to the Asean award

In fact it is one of the main engines of growth for the world economy, especially in the pre-Covid eras.    

In its purest sense, community-based tourism is local tourism ideally owned and managed by communities who are often poor and marginalised.

The concept emerged in 1990 when it was thought that maybe struggling rural economies living below the poverty could get a cut of the benefits by inviting travellers to stay in their communities , take ownership of authentic local culture and traditions, and earn incomes that are intended to deliver wider community benefits.

Demand for safe, authentic educational tours started it all

The usual idea in tourism is supply of attractive products create demand.

But in Tham’s Padas Farmstay Tenom case, demand started supply, specifically demand from the UK for safe authentic educational tours to enable high school teens to learn life lessons, driven by a belief that ‘travel is a powerful force’ in shaping leadership character.      

“The UK has what they call Summer Holiday Outdoor Education Tour curriculum for high school students aged 16-18,” he noted.

UK student getting it right in this Lundayeh dance teaching session.

UK students working on a project in Kg Baru Jumpa Tengah.

Members of the tourism co-operative of Kg Marais.

“It all started in 2000 when a company named Outlook Expeditions Educational & Adventure Travel for Schools sent groups of students to villages in East coast destinations like Kinabatangan, Semporna, Lahad Datu, sometimes Kudat or Ranau, to do charity community work and I was engaged as their guide,” Tham recalled.

“For 12 years between 2000 and 2012, they focussed on travelling to the East Coast, I guided them only to where they went, they arranged their own accommodation, organised their own food.”   

One bombshell event that led UK groups to Tenom   

“But one bombshell event changed everything.”      

“Suddenly on 11 February 2013, followers of Jamalul Kirim III invaded Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu and bloody shootout ensued, followed by an Ops Daulat to flush out the invaders. “     

“The Tanduo incident caused schools to cancel everything – all 20 groups of them,” Tham noted.

“Given this flood of cancellations, the Supervisor of Outlook Expeditions Educational  & Adventure Travel for Schools asked me: Where is the best place we can go? I immediately suggested interior Tenom – beautiful cultures, farms, forests and no security issue,” Tham remembered.

The problem is where to house the groups. 

The quick answer was to renovate his Tenom farm workers’ quarters, extended four rooms to seven which could house 30 students.

In 2013, Outlook Expeditions sent one group to Tenom.

“In 2014, they sent four schools, then in 2015, sent 10 schools – just getting more and more,” Tham recalled. 

“In fact, each year between 2013 till 2020, we had about 10 to 20 school groups coming to Tenom to do community works in villages,” Tham noted. 

Villagers getting paid and charity projects 

A typical package is 7 days and 6 nights – always accorded a colourful traditional welcome at the village, day time do charity work on projects , in the evening they retreat to Padas Farmstay which we built in 2017 to give them a good place to stay and good food to eat, and spend the night interacting with villagers who teach them local dances and the students teach some English.      

Package rates include payment to the girls who welcome the students in traditional costumes and also payment to the villagers who turn up at night for the interactive sessions and teach local dances   

“It’s all inclusive in a package, we cannot expect free service from them because they are farmers,” Tham noted.  

60 community projects in 20 villages  

“Between 2013 and 2019, the students had done 60 community projects in 20 villages in Kemabong , namely Kg Paal, Kg Ulu Paal, Kg Sungai Api, Komuniti Bukit Layang2, Kg Bamban, Kg Mailo, Kg Mansanoi, Kg Muntai, Kg BaruJumpa Tengah, Kg BaruJumpa Serberang, Kg BaruJumpa Naluyan, Kg Karamatoi, Kg Gumisi, Kg Sugiang Tengah, Kg Sugiang Baru, Kg Bangkuling and Kg Kalibatang Lama. 

Once in a while, the Padas Farmstay building is used as a hub for sharing  tourism experience and knowledge with villagers on topics like guiding and product development. 

A good example of product development 

A long-term objective is villagers will own, operate and market their own tourism products.

A good example is he had worked with Rosli Tampisan in late 2021 to rediscover and marked out the precise original site of the British North Borneo station in Rundum which was attacked by Murut warrior Ontaros Antanom in February 1915.

Sabah Tourism had subsequently visited the site for a possible development into  a historical tourism product for the new highland Rundum community.         

However, the latest regional Asean recognition is made possible by a 2017 Sabah Tourism Board award dubbed ‘Best Community-Based Tourism Initiative (Rural) to Padas Farmstay, Tenom, managed by TYK Adventure Sdn Bhd. 

On the basis of this State award, Motac (Ministry of Tourism, Art and Culture) nominated Padas Farmstay for the Asean award.

UK students building a kitchen in Kg Gumisi, Kemabong. 

Tham (right) Managing Director of Padas Farmstay being evaluated by Asean community-based standard award judges.


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