Experiential Tourism in Bau
REBORN (Responsible Borneo) is an initiative of Sarawak Research Society (SRS) in response to Sarawak Commitment to Responsible Tourism. One of the pioneering projects is the "Green and Gold Tourism Exploration in Bau District" which focuses on community involvement and empowerment. Pilot studies were carried out in Taiton, and Jalan Kuching-Bau and a series of dialogues were held with the community leaders and members. The purpose is to design experimental tours involving the host community and gather more inputs from tourism stakeholders before proposing responsible and experiential tourism packages in these areas and other destinations.
Located at the southern part of Borneo and not far from Kuching City, Bau is a district endowed with natural wonders and a long-standing history. Although mining activities have long ceased to operate, Bau remains as a destination with “new gold” due to its latent potential in tourism as well as people and culture with untold stories. Green and Gold Tourism Exploration in Bau District started in 2021 to perpetuate responsible tourism development in the rural area. As “green” and “gold” refer to nature and culture respectively, Bau promises a wealth of tourism experiences most visitors will crave for. To start off on the right foot, the research team first approached the local community, particularly the community leaders.
We decided to visit the community leaders in Bau to talk and listen to them. Though we had specific objectives to achieve in every visit, we realised that it was important to keep the communication going to show them that we cared and were willing to work with them. We still have a long way to go but we are certain that community involvement and empowerment in rural tourism is a prevailing way to achieve inclusive growth and sustainable development.
The tourism exploration in Bau has since attracted some attention. Preservation of culture and protection of nature, appreciation of the local heritage and indigenous knowledge as well as sustainability of the socio-economic development, including minimizing societal and environmental issues, all but underscore the importance of host community and how they can be empowered to engage in tourism activities.
It is high time that tourism officials and stakeholders work together in unison to prepare host community which is resilient to challenges and possesses the capacity to improve their wellbeing and gain greater stewardship of the destination. Effective capacity-building programs are critically needed to revitalise host community and rural destinations. When tourism is developed responsibly with local community in the frame, tourism will also become a vehicle to achieve social inclusivity, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.