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Tourism in Bario community Essay

The concept of using tourism as a tool for bringing development in communities has elicited a lot of debate with some people doubting the viability of the approach. Malaysia is an example of countries that have succeed in using pro-poor based tourism to foster development in economical struggling communities (Azarya, 2004).

The state of Sarawak in the eastern part of Malaysia has embraced different forms of tourism such as research tourism, cultural tourism, adventure tourism and development conferencing in to bring economic empowerment in the community. The Bario community has interwoven tourism with both cultural and social aspects of the community to bring about development.

Tourism has continued to thrive in rural communities because it is easy for farmers in living in rural communities due to the entrepreneurial and independent capacity that they have.

Despite creating employment opportunities for the poor people in rural areas, tourism has brought other benefits such as the development of information and communication technologies have made information flow much more easier and efficient (Azarya, 2004).

This paper will highlight how tourism is an important development tool for community development using the Bario community in the Sarawak state of eastern Malaysia as our case study.

Tourism in Bario community has an interesting history and it actually started unexpectedly. Bario community is a rural community in the state of Sarawak whose governance is formal with a headman, a community and other opinion leaders (Belsky, 1999). The area has high peaks with a forested environment that is suitable for trekking tourism.

With increasing number of tourists visiting the region, the demand for transportation and accommodation increased forcing the rural farmers to accommodate paying guests in their homes. As the tourism industry continued to grow, the e-Bario project was initiated to bolster the development of infrastructure in the area.

The introduction of telephones and information technology opened many oportunities since information flow was made easier (Brohman, 1996). Since tourism was introduced in Bario in the late 1990s, the number of guest houses has now grown from one to almost twelve and trekking tourism still remains the most popular. Touring has become the major economic activity in Bario with new categories being introduced.

Apart from trekking tourism, there are other forms of tourism that have been introduced in the area so that visitors can have a variety of attractions (Bala, 2002). Adventure tourism is associated with travelling to remote and hostile places for adventure has also become popular in Bario.

Being a physical activity, adventure tourism fosters cultural interaction and at the same time enable visitors to fully explore nature. Mount Gunung Murud and Batu Lawi are the best for expeditions and the core of adventure tourism in Bario. The world Challenge Expeditions held in 1997 is one of the first major events that promoted adventure tourism in Bario and generated a lot of interest (Bala, 2002).

The other form of tourism that is popular in Bario is cultural tourism. This form of tourism enables visitors to participate in the cultural experiences of the local community. The diverse customs of traditional communities with a variety of unique cultural practices is a major attraction to visiting tourists (Harrison, 1959).

The indigenous cultural communities showcase their arts, food, cultural festivals and rituals which give the visitors a new experience.

The Bario & Kelabit Highlands Foods & and Cultural Festival which is a three day celebration was established in 2005 is held annually and has become the epitome of cultural tourism in the Bario community (Chambers, 2000). The festival has attracted quite a number of sponsors because of its role in preserving culture and promoting unity in the community.

Tourism research is another unique form of tourism that has also generated a lot of interest from the many visitors that visit the Bario community (Chambers, 2000). The leadership of the area realized that visiting researchers can actually contribute to the development of the community in one way or another.

Ethnographic and anthropological research has taken centre stage with visitors going further to scientific cultural and environmental inquiries. Tourism research is known to bring socio-economic development to the area under study and in the process helping in environmental conservation and culture preservation.

Marine research is another area of research that interests visiting researchers with the Sulawasi research project in Indonesia as a notable example. The Lelabit Highlands in Sarawak has continued to attract many researchers who come to both social and natural sciences (Chin et al, 2002).

The Bario community has trained research assistants who offer the necessary support to the visiting visitors. The potential benefits of research tourism has made it a major component in the development plans of the Bario community.

The Bario community is slowly trying to implement another form of tourism known as development conferencing (Azarya, 2004). The Bario Knowledge Fair organized in December 2007 that involved showcasing the impact of information and communication technologies in the region especially in the isolated indigenous communities.

The event attracted policy-makers, researchers and local residents who came with various presentations. The main focus of the Knowledge Fair to actually increase awareness in Information Communication Technologies in Bario (Azarya, 2004). The event brought economic benefits in the area and empowerment through their participation.

The idea of travelling to attend conferences and exhibitions has promoted tourism since the visiting people are also regarded as tourists (Cohen, 1988). The major problem affecting the growth of tourism in the Bario community is its isolation with road connections that are essential for the development of any community.

Eco-tourism is a form of tourism that has been widely exploited in the Kelabit Highlands in he state of Sarawak and has also been a pillar of economic development to the community (Crick, 1989).

The heart of Borneo initiative in the region was started for conservation purposes and has continued to receive a lot of support from the Government and the international community because of its potential to sustain development i9n the region. The area has continued to establish transboundary ecotourism initiatives by consolidating all cultural, social, political and ecological attractions in the region (Farell &Marion, 2001).

This has been made possible by extensive research conducted by the policy makers in the tourism industry with the research helping to bring out the challenges facing this form of tourism and at the same time come up with a comprehensive management plan that would ensure all the stakeholders enjoy the benefits of ecotourism in the region (Bala, 2002).

Eco-tourism faces some challenges and the policy researchers have recommended some adequate measures to in order to stabilize the industry.

Some of the research recommendations include forests and cultural sites conservation, improvement of tourism infrastructure, improvement of communication and accommodation facilities together with massive promotional efforts to showcase the available ecotourism attractions in the region (Bala, 2002).

Eco-tourism has been a major of tourism in Malaysia and has been growing in leaps and bounds in the last two decades (Azarya, 2004). Some community based organizations have sprung into action to try and help promote ecotourism in the country.

The most notable organizations include the Tourism Bureau of Kelabit Highlands, the Bari-Ba’ Kelalan Guide Association, LSM Tanah Tam and FORMADAT (Azarya, 2004). The future of ecotourism is in Malaysia is very bright despite the normal challenges that face the tourism sector such as poor infrastructure, communication problems and disagreements on how to share benefits.

In conclusion, the idea of encouraging communities to participate in tourism activities brings about many benefits to the community and the country as a whole. Indigenous tourism has enabled local farmers to improve their incomes through participation in small-scale tourism business.

Indigenous tourism enterprises such cultural villages and museums that showcase spiritual, cultural and environmental aspects of the community are the main highlights of community based tourism (Farrell & Marion, 2001). There are strategies that have been put in place so that he the tourism industry remains vibrant through the years.


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Harrison, T. (1959). World within: A Borneo story. Singapore: Oxford University Press.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Tourism in Bario community." May 22, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/tourism-in-bario-community-essay/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Tourism in Bario community'. 22 May.

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