KOTA KINABALU - The homestay programme is here to stay.
A decade after being introduced to the rural community here, it has gained momentum with growing interest among locals keen to venture into tourism.
The Sabah Homestay Association said a portion of the RM200 million Tourism Infrastructure Fund for Sabah and Sarawak announced in Budget 2008 could be used to upgrade facilities under the programme.
Association President Joanna Kitingan said about 300 households were already participating in the programme in 12 districts but that more needed to be done to get others to participate.
"We hope some of the money can be channeled to upgrade roads leading to some potential homestay villages. We also need to upgrade toilets and renovate some homes.
"We must also continue to train homestay operators on how to interact with their guests and on issues of concern such as environmental awareness and what tourism means.
"Many of these homestay locations are at important ecotourism belts such as at the Kinabatangan River. Locals need to know that some visitors are concerned about conservation matters."
She said promotion and marketing of homestay programmes in Sabah was another area that needed funding.
Having been personally involved in establishing homestays in Sabah for more than 10 years, she has seen the benefits it has brought to locals.
"At the Miso Walai homestay in Kinabatangan, there were 12 households involved when we first started seven years ago. Now there are 30 involved and they have programmes back to back.
"Those who conduct homestays have learnt how to improve the way they live and now know the importance of cleanliness."
Joanna said Sabah has so much to offer foreigners because of its diverse culture.
Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend