Wednesday, June 12, 2013

‘Not so elementary for Wilson, as homestays can be mis-managed’

Posted on June 12, 2013, Wednesday

KUCHING: The government has been urged to pre-empt weaknesses in a few tourism-related ideas by stating how they will be implemented and managed.

State PKR information chief Vernon Aji Kedit made the call in a press conference yesterday, citing the example of a recent news report on turning Rumah Wilson in Betong into a longhouse homestay initiative.

“This is an excellent idea to create economic growth for longhouse residents in Betong. 
However, the concept of homestay is not new in Sarawak, and although successful to some extent, has been abused in the past and continues to be a bane to tour operators who have to deal with the direct consequence of bad management of homestays.

“By abuse, I meant funds allocated by various ministries in the past to upgrade homes have been diverted by home owners, with no proper follow-up or monitoring by the government. 
Some participants of the homestay programme have also pulled out after refurbishing their homes.

“How can the government ensure that wastage of public funds will not happen again?” he questioned.

Vernon also cautioned against compromising cultural integrity for economic growth.

“Who will be charged with ensuring that integrity of homestays meet the requirements of cultural authenticity? I call for caution, proper study and adequate licensing for this longhouse homestay initiative. They should come under the purview of cultural experts and homestay professionals,” he stressed.

On the development of a state cultural centre or “Istana Budaya” a tourism idea proposed by the Federal Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, Vernon agreed that it is an excellent proposal but the government needs to make clear its implementation.

“Culture is a very sensitive and subjective matter and how it is presented will reflect Sarawak. We do not want a watering down of our cultures or homogenising our various cultures into one that will strip away our uniqueness,” he said.

“The government needs to make it clear what their plans, programmes and sustainable long term vision are for such a centre. The project should be executed by experts in the field of cultural centres,” he noted.

On another news report about allowing more international flights to land in Sarawak, Vernon said this is a most welcomed idea, as the issue has disadvantaged the state and its tourism sector for years.

The current protection of the national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is no different from the cabotage system that does not allow Sarawakian importers to have their products delivered to local ports in the state, he pointed out.

Firstly, the problem with the federal tourism ministry is that it has no authority over MAS or Malaysia Airports Berhad, both which are under the purview of Transport Ministry, he stressed.

“My question is, is there political will to bring about this change?” he posed.

Secondly, Sabah has a healthier tourism compare to ours because one of the major factors is having more international flights landing in Sabah, he said.

“So, if it can be done for Sabah, why not Sarawak?”

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