Terlebih dahulu saya merakamkan penghargaan dan terima kasih kepada pihak penganjur atas jemputan untuk saya hadir bersempena dengan ‘Roadshow Pelancongan Luar Bandar’.  Saya berasa gembira dan berbesar hati kerana dapat bersama-sama dengan tuan-tuan dan puan-puan di dalam majlis yang sangat penting dan bermakna,  dengan tujuan mempromosikan pelancongan luar bandar.  Di Sabah, kita telah menyaksikan  perkembangan pesat sektor pelancongan dengan kebanyakan lebih tertumpu di pusat-pusat bandar termasuklah di bandar raya Kota Kinabalu dan kawasan sekitarnya. Justeru, penganjuran majlis ini bertepatan pada masanya untuk kita meneroka potensi pelancongan dan perniagaan di kawasan luar bandar.  Ia bukan sahaja akan menyumbang kepada ekonomi negeri, tetapi lebih penting lagi akan menjana pendapatan alternatif untuk meningkatkan ekonomi negeri.


Usaha dan inisiatif untuk memberi tumpuan kepada bidang pelancongan luar bandar menunjukkan bahawa kita menawarkan pelbagai produk kepada pelancong dari dalam dan luar negara.  Sesungguhnya amat penting bagi negeri Sabah yang kaya dengan keindahan dan keunikan alam semulajadi untuk mempelbagaikan produk pelancongan, kerana ia dapat mempromosikan Sabah sebagai destinasi pelancongan utama di rantau ini.


I recently received a courtesy call from the Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board who informed me about a new product called 'lung-washing' that promises fresh air and green surroundings just over an hour’s drive from Kota Kinabalu city. Despite being close to the city, districts that are suitable for this new product are largely rural.


The Kiulu, Ranau, Kadamaian  and Tambunan areas that are the initial focus of the ‘lung-washing’ product have the potential to attract local and foreign tourists, especially those who come from large cities. I am sure that they will find these districts perfect in terms of getting some good air to breath and in enjoying the greenery and landscape, some of which is mountainous. We would like to see these four districts develop eco-based tourism attractions with the right balance that provide an authentic look and feel. 


The State Government acknowledges this initiative as a means to increase the livelihood of communities living in rural areas. With tourism providing a boost, communities can look beyond traditional methods of earning a living, such as farming. This does not mean that they give up their ways of life, but it does provide them with an opportunity to have an alternative income. With the right guidance and community level leadership, tourism could sustain lives and even lead to a paradigm shift in their thinking and in participating in government initiated policies on tourism.


It is hoped that rural communities will start to think of tourism and learn more about the service industry leading to them having a vision, being more innovative, and competitive. This is how we make ourselves better. There are many opportunities the communities can take up such as in operating lodges, tour guiding, acting as naturalists, and in marketing and promotions.


To see this through, the government is committed to providing the necessary infrastructure to rural areas, such as better road conditions for easier access and to make the drive comfortable and safe and within the shortest amount of time.


The State Government would also like to see empowerment of young people from rural communities venturing into the vibrant tourism sector. We have seen the success of rural tourism in other countries and on our part we are committed to seeing rural tourism take off in Sabah. We have skills centres and other institutes of higher education that are both tourism and non-tourism related that could spur tourism in rural areas. It is indeed critical to have a knowledgeable and competent work force to spur this sector and to encourage entrepreneurship so that the relevant products can be put on offer in rural districts.


In order for these four and other districts to start promoting their tourism products, commitment is needed from a wide range of stakeholders, including elected representatives. The District Tourism Action Council is one platform that can be used to brainstorm, plan, formulate and carry out activities that would appeal to tourists. Those who are already in the tourism sector must also be willing to receive new information and training so that they do not lose out, or miss out, from what tourism in fast-paced world has to offer. It would also be good to engage with those who have been in the sector for a long time and to identify experts from various fields to assist with capacity building.


I am pleased with the yearly tourism industry performance in Sabah. Despite challenges that we have faced, including security related, last year tourism generated an estimated RM7.2 billion receipts to Sabah’s economy. The State Government will work with investors on providing tourism related facilities and properties to further market Sabah. Our emphasis on tourism is also in line with the State Development Agenda or Halatuju, Sabah Development Corridor and Economic Transformation Programme.  


In concluding my remarks, I wish to commend STB on this effort to give touristic value to the lesser known parts of Sabah. I also acknowledge the board’s efforts over the past few years in kick starting the rural tourism industry for Sabah. On this note, I officially launch the Sabah Rural Tourism Road Show. Thank you.