After eight years of being guided by Borneo Eco Tours, Kiulu Farmstay, a community-based tourism project, has transitioned from private tour company management to the hands of the local communities.
This has given local communities more control over their products and will enhance cultural preservation. With the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by Borneo Eco Tours managing director Albert Teo and villagers, Sikong Moringo and Tuwin Gumporoh, this marked the transfer of ownership of Kiulu Farmstay to the villagers who are the rightful landowners of Kiulu Farmstay.
Sabah Tourism Board chairman, Joniston Bangkuai, who also serves as assistant minister of tourism, culture, and environment, lauded Borneo Eco Tours’ visionary project, highlighting how it has served as a “trailblazing model” for community-based tourism in Kiulu.
With the local communities now in charge, Kiulu Farmstay is well-positioned to offer enhanced tourism experiences. By taking ownership of their tourism initiatives, the communities can continue showcasing their unique products authentically and sustainably, he added.
Joniston was confident that this transition will bring great economic benefits as the communities will directly benefit from tourism revenue, which can then be reinvested into community projects and create new employment opportunities.
How it started
In 2015, Borneo Eco Tours formed the Kiulu Farmstay as a community-based ecotourism project aimed at growing the tourism potential of the Kiulu area.
The early phase of the project involved three villages: Kampung Mantob, Kampung Dumpiring, and Kampung Pinagon Baru. These communities became key members of the Mukim Ulu Kiulu Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies (MUKEST) Society, a community-based organisation established by BEST Society, the NGO arm of Borneo Eco Tours.
For eight years, efforts were undertaken to support the communities in their transition to becoming product owners by equipping them with management, infrastructure development, and marketing skills, among others.
"We want to make sure the communities can manage their products successfully, and we want them to have the freedom to obtain business from other (tour companies) rather than solely relying on Borneo Eco Tours so that others can support and collaborate with them.
"As the initiator, Borneo Eco Tours is happy to hand over Kiulu Farmstay assets worth more than RM270,000 (US$57,884) to the community. We will continue to assist Kiulu Farmstay in promoting and marketing tourism products," Teo said.
Creating new tourism options
The DMC has also created new tourism products in Kiulu, such as the Bamboo Hut Village, Borneo Quad Biking, Kiulu Homestays, guided tours, and Obstacle Course. It hires and trains local community leaders for daily operations, homestay operations, basic bookkeeping and guiding. It also provides logistical support by extending transportation services for tourists to and from Kiulu while helping with marketing efforts through tour packaging and sales.
These efforts aimed at capacity building, operational support, and resource provision have helped to ensure the empowerment and long-term sustainability of the project.