Joniston with Sandakan MP Vivian Wong (middle), Julinus (right) and Teo (2nd left).
KOTA KINABALU: Sandakan has immense potential to harness the strength of its local communities to create sustainable tourism opportunities, said Sabah Tourism Board (STB) Chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.
He also highlighted the importance of empowering village folks and diversifying tourism offerings beyond nature and wildlife tourism.
He was speaking at a meeting with Sandakan Member of Parliament Vivian Wong and Sandakan Tourism Association President Teo Chee Kim at the STB office here yesterday.
STB Deputy CEO Julinus Jimit also attended the meeting which provided an opportunity for Vivian to seek advice from Joniston, who is State Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, on attracting more tourists to Sandakan.
She also highlighted Pulau Tanjung Aru as a potential island to be transformed into a new attraction and briefed the Assistant Minister on initiatives she has undertaken to help empower the islanders.
Joniston emphasised the potential for community-based tourism development in Sandakan, stressing Pulau Tanjung Aru, with its pristine beaches and close proximity to historical sites, could serve as a pilot project for community-based tourism in the district.
He said this initiative would diversify the region’s tourism products and offer visitors a wider range of experiences.
He further amplified the importance of the STB’s involvement in initiating engagement between successful community-based tourism operators and the village folks of Sandakan.
“Community-based tourism has proven to be a successful model in Sabah and various parts of the world for promoting rural areas, empowering local communities and preserving cultural heritage while offering unique experiences to tourists.
“STB plays a crucial role in connecting the dots and facilitating partnerships. By fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing, we can create a supportive environment for developing community-based tourism ventures in Sandakan,” he said.