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LAWAS: The cool and serene Ba'Kelalan highland, renowned for its annual apple festival in the world tourism industry, is now eyeing the lucrative homestay programme.
The booming homestay programme in the country has generated positive vibes among the remote Ba'Kelalan residents, here who want a piece of the pie in the growing tourism industry in the country.
Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit was quoted as saying in Parliament recently that revenue from the homestay programme in the country increased by 26.78 per cent to RM15.7 million last year with tourist participation in the programme having increased by 29.8 per cent to 254,981
Dawos said the homestay industry had contributed toward higher tourist arrivals which saw an increase of 21.6 per cent from 161,561 tourists in 2009 to
196,472 in 2010.
For Sarawak, the homestay craze is beginning to reap positive returns when homestay operators managed to rake in accumulated earnings of RM978,700 last year, an increase of over 25 per cent when compared to the RM780,950 in 2010.
Based on the Tourism Ministry's statistics, 12,612 tourists took up the homestay packages in the state in 2011, with 9,384 recorded in the previous year.
To date, a total of 409 homestay operators have been registered by the ministry in Sarawak providing 539 accommodation facilities and the accommodation
provided is either in the form of individual traditional houses or longhouses.
The Sarawak Director of the Federal Tourism Ministry Office Esther Douglas said the homestay programme in Ba'Kelalan could be the best in the country if
not in the state.
"In terms of hospitality and commitment they are among the best," she told Bernama.
Esther, who went to Ba'Kelalan in February, said plans were in the pipeline to improve tourism infrastructures in Ba'Kelalan under the Homestay
Infrastructure Improvement Development Project in the current 10th Malaysian Plan (10MP).
She said among the the components of the projects were erecting information signages along Mount Murud trek as well as homestay signages at strategic
locations in the Ba'Kelalan area.
"The ministry has allocated RM48,000 for the project to be managed by Lawas District Council," she said adding that it would not only benefit homestay
operators in Ba'Kelalan but the whole community.
Previously to reach Ba'Kelalan via road would be a back breaking experience as the former logging track between Long Luping-Ba'Kelalan road could pose
serious danger to those who have not exprienced navigating the muddy and slippery road that takes up to 12 hours or days to reach Ba'Kelalan during the
rainy season. -- BERNAMA