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Meditization of Rafflesia

Background

Locally known as Bunga Rogon, the Rafflesia is popular among conservationists, naturalists and travellers because of its rarity. Because of this rarity, in the betterment of socio-economic position, local communities could utilise it as a tourism attraction.

The Sabah Parks Board of Trustees (Sabah Parks) established the Rafflesia Conservation Initiative Scheme (RCIS) with the primary aim of increasing local communities' involvement in the conservation through Rafflesia stewardship activities. Under this scheme, Sabah Parks transferred its biological and ecological knowledge of the Rafflesia plant and its stewardship to selected Dusun communities. Of course, since tourism knowledge and skills were not provided under RCIS, Sabah Parks also encouraged these communities to forge alliances with tourism operators; Sabah Parks expected tourism business agencies to sell tourism packages where the scheme is being implemented, and the participating communities could earn a portion of the tourists’ receipts. However, many tourism operators were not aware of RCIS’s objectives, and did not engage the communities accordingly. Tourism receipts that the participating communities received were not continuous or economically sufficient as the participating Dusun communities lack appropriate tourism knowledge and skills. Many public agencies shouldered the task of building up the tourism capacity of local communities. Among these agencies included the Sabah Tourism Board, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and the Institute for Rural Advancement (INFRA) under the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development. However, these organizations readily act in accordance to the tourism industry needs; the organizations could not readily act on the needs of RCIS’ participants, unless the participants are registered as tourism entities. As a result, major problems plagued the participating Dusun communities from benefitting tourism. The problems are a) Rafflesia is a recognized attraction, and not the RCIS or the community that participates the related scheme and b) the involved Dusun communities have limited tourism opportunities options; they could only act as guides, porters, and component suppliers namely attraction suppliers. For a tourism package to focus on the attraction of Rafflesia and it’s the activity of conserving it, its bulk message should relate to the local communities, the activities of conserving Rafflesia, and the connection between the two mentioned.

Objectives

A project was established to provide the much needed tourism communication mediums to the local communities, which will enable their tourism enterprising abilities. The objectives of this project are a) to create site-specific tourism communication mediums at all Rafflesia conservation centers under the Rafflesia Conservation Initiative Scheme, and b) to develop and equip local tourism managers at all Rafflesia conservation centers under the Rafflesia Conservation Initiative Scheme.This project received public funding from the Ministry of Higher Education through Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

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