Sabah Tourism Board has begun promoting rural tourism and will ramp up the effort in 2018 for its top source markets Brunei, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Europe and the domestic market from Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.
Areas promoted are Kiulu, Kandamaian, Kundasang, Tambunan and Kudat – all within a 45 minute to 2.5 hour drive from Kota Kinabalu.
Welcoming the move, Monika Tigges, product manager Asia – Arabia at Dusseldorf-based Explorer Fernreisen, interviewed at the recent PATA Travel Mart, said: “Sabah Tourism Board is on the right track. It is a smart move (that) will attract the savvy traveller who has been around the world, stayed in hotels and are now looking for new experiences. Also it will attract the visitors who have already been to Kota Kinabalu.”
Tigges said the company already offers Borneo tours beyond capital cities and that they are “doing very well”.
Likewise, Adam Kamal, CEO at Olympik Holidays, based in Kuala Lumpur said: “Gone are the days that you can make a broad assumption that Asians just like shopping, city experiences and hotel accommodation. We find that Asian millennials are more adventurous, they like to discover new places and get new experiences compared with Gen X. Rural tourism, (in allowing) them to live like locals and share their experiences on social media, is something they will be attracted to.”
However, both Adam and Tigges said they need more from the NTO support in the form of training and product updates.
Sabah Tourism Board said it is working with local inbound agents to assist them to package rural tourism into their itineraries, in addition to leveraging social media to promote the niche.