KOTA KINABALU: A comprehensive data collection effort from district tourism associations and key operators is needed to measure the success of rural tourism initiatives in the state, said the Sabah Tourism Board (STB).

In calling for this data gathering, STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai has emphasised the importance of this data during a Product Rural Tourism Committee (PRTC) meeting on Wednesday (July 3), highlighting its necessity for strategic planning and sustainable development.

He said after a decade of developing rural and community-based tourism, it was time for a more structured approach to evaluate its success.

“We need everyone’s input to create a comprehensive picture of our rural tourism landscape for informed decision-making,” Bangkuai said.

He said by compiling accurate data from all districts, STB can better understand the impact of rural tourism, identify areas for improvement, and ensure effective resource use.

He said working together to gather and analyse data will help stakeholders ensure that rural tourism in Sabah thrives, offering unique experiences for visitors while supporting local communities.

At present, the STB has compiled data from the Kiulu Tourism Association, Kadamaian Tourism Association and Tambunan Tourism Association from 2017 and 2022, said Bangkuai.

Kadamaian saw a significant rise from 80,000 visitors and RM900,000 in receipts in 2017 to 216,882 visitors and RM2.57mil in receipts in 2019 whereas visitor numbers were 72,871 in 2022, generating RM2.21mil.

Kiulu reported 53,000 visitors with RM4mil in receipts in 2017, which fluctuated over the years, reaching 79,935 visitors which generated RM2.79mil in 2022.

Tambunan recorded 83,000 visitors and RM4.15mil in receipts in 2017, with varying numbers in subsequent years, including 16,279 visitors in 2020 which rose to 71,550 visitors with RM2.92mil in income in 2022.

Meanwhile, during the PRTC meeting, they also discussed a proposal to organise a KITA Food Festival in Sabah which aims to bring in chefs to the state and explore local ingredients while promoting gastronomy.