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Best Tourism Villages By UNWTO Announcement And Awards Ceremony

3 December 2021 - At the recently concluded 24th UNWTO General Assembly, Malaysia was among the proud recipients of the inaugural Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO award, with Kampung Batu Puteh emerging a winner for its signature Community-Based Ecotourism initiatives in the Lower Kinabatangan River of Sabah, Malaysia.

The official announcement and awards ceremony on 2 December 2021 in Madrid, Spain was attended by YB Dato' Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia and Mr. Abdul Sanih Nasri, Chairman of the Batu Puteh Community Ecotourism Cooperative, who received the award from UNWTO Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili.

The community of Batu Puteh is proudly represented by a village-based co-operative of local rural people, fisherfolk and farmers. This joint venture was led by the MESCOT (Model Ecologically Sustainable Community and Tourism). Initiative and the award-winning Miso Walai Homestay which offers an organised community-based cultural tourism experience. Today, the Community Cooperative encompasses a number of ecotourism ventures and conservation initiatives with more than 350 members and cooperative shareholders benefiting.

As a Social Enterprise, the co-operative's key responsibility is its members, by creating and sustaining employment and contributing in meaningful ways to local livelihoods. Alongside Batu Puteh's conservation activities, its parallel social agenda offers numerous community and member focused benefits from micro-finance through to awards, donations, and training opportunities across the community.

Following the prestigious Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO awards ceremony, the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia, YB Dato' Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri referred to Batu Puteh as a successful model for Responsible Rural Tourism, Ecotourism and Community- Based Tourism, which Malaysia continues to promote extensively. "This tourism niche is one the country's main areas of strength considering the abundance of natural assets, heritage and cultural diversity with which we are blessed," Nancy said.

"For Malaysia, the global pandemic crisis has presented an opportunity for a new beginning. Due to rising interest in ‘second city' travel and 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," Nancy remarked.

The Minister also commended UNWTO for its introduction of timely initiatives such as the Best Tourism Villages award. "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," Nancy concluded.


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