A day after a temple in Penang was awarded the UNESCO Award of Merit, another award was given to Malaysia at the international level. Kampung Batu Puteh of Sabah’s Lower Kinabatangan River was awarded the inaugural Best Tourism Village Award by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The ceremony was held in Madrid, Spain on Thursday (2 Dec).
Zurab Pololikashvili, the secretary-general of UNWTO personally presented the award to the Chairman of the Batu Puteh Community Ecotourism Cooperative, Abdul Sanih Nasri. The chairman was accompanied by the Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri at the official announcement and awards ceremony last week.
The community of Kampung Batu Puteh is made up of local rural people, fisherfolk and farmers.
According to Utusan Malaysia, the village is located in Batu Puteh Mukim, Kinabatangan District of Sandakan. First explored in 1956 by Imam Yusof Mariwa together with his relatives, it is the oldest village in the area.
The unique name of Kampung Batu Puteh is derived from a large white rock located on the banks of the Kinabatangan River, 600 meters from the village.
Following the prestigious award, Nancy said that Batu Puteh is a successful model of Responsible Rural Tourism, Ecotourism and Community Based Tourism, which Malaysia continues to promote extensively.
This tourism niche is one of the country’s main areas of strength considering the abundance of natural assets, heritage and cultural diversity with which we are blessed.Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri
According to the minister, the global pandemic crisis had presented an opportunity for a new beginning as there is an increasing interest in “second city” travel as well as the exploration of lesser-known destinations.
I believe this is the best time to promote hidden gems in our countryside, as tourists are expected to prefer nature-based destinations with a laid-back lifestyle and plenty of fresh air.Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri
The minister also commended UNWTO for its introduction of timely initiatives for such awards.
These awards and recognition programmes will go a long way to infusing a greater sense of purpose and pride among the homegrown small and micro enterprises which make up the majority of tourism enterprises in the Asia-Pacific region.Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri
Meanwhile, the ministry mentioned that the success of the village is contributed by the hard work of its cooperative, which consists of more than 300 members.
Moreover, it was also achieved with the collaboration of Miso Walai Homestay operator who once won the best local homestay through the Ecologically Sustainable Tourism and Community Model.