UNIVERSITI MALAYSIA SARAWAK (UNIMAS)
Tourism plays an important role in the Malaysian economy as it is considered to be one of the cornerstones of the country’s economy. The purpose of this research is to conduct an analysis based on the existing rural tourism destinations in Malaysia by examining the impact of economics, environmental, social and cultural factors of the tourism industry on the local communities. Subsequently, a system named WikiTours was developed, whereby it acts as a responsible and a Green Decision-Making Support system that incorporates business indicators for tourism industry players. Below are the salient features of the WikiTours:
- Geographical Information System (GIS) that automates real time location information on land usage, household and population as well as tourism indicators for business decision making by producing performance sustainability index for the selected area.
- Real time data for early detection of potential problems (i.e., crime, vandalism, pollution) at tourism sites and identification of potential new tourism destinations.
- Effective tourism management through the application of information and communication technologies.
- Automates the process of measuring the business location’s fitness and sustainability index based on key tourism indicators for business decision making.
- Has the capability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the destinations.
- An innovative, one of its kind, fully-integrated system that combines the perspectives of tourists, local communities and tourism industry players.
- Acts as a benchmark for tourism industry by displaying the current situational analysis of selected tourism destination sites. It could identify the various issues faced by businesses, the critical success factors of their various branches and target individual niche markets in their various branches.
- Relies on data and information that are captured from various industry stakeholders e.g., local communities, industry players and tourists for strategic planning of the businesses in which current business information system are lacking. It allows collaborative marketing partnerships by amplifying the relevancy and benefits to both public and private stakeholders in the tourism industry.
Ecotourism has been actively promoted by governments as well as the private sector, without an overall effective strategy, successful protected area management plans and without consultation or inclusion of local communities. Development projects are often designed and implemented in which indigenous people have minimal voice in its policy and management. Tourism which simply transplants urban investment and enterprises to a rural setting does little to improve communities’ incomes, as profits generated do not benefit rural destinations but in most cases, being taken out by their urban owners. As a result, many indigenous people rightly feel that tourism industry has a poor track record, disregarding their legitimate interests and rights, and profiting from their culture and heritage. Therefore, partnership between the tourism industry players, government agencies and the local population are needed in which local communities are able to articulate their initial concerns, wants and needs in relation to any development. As such, the effectiveness of future tourism development will ultimately hinge on who will benefit, as well as where, when and how it can be appropriately implemented.
In the context of Malaysia, the challenges faced by the ecotourism industry are evident and this is in tandem with the government of Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) - that highlights the need to enhance connectivity in key areas of tourism markets. One of the challenges faced by rural tourism industry is the lack of direct international air link to rural destinations. Other challenges faced by the industry are the need to diversify and broaden the product base, the quality of products and safety measures. Moreover, visitors’ satisfaction ought to be addressed seriously, and the relatively low level of knowledge and communication skills among front liners in the industry, and the urgent need to improve the efficiency and environmental issues through integrated network system must be taken into consideration. In view of the above issues, good planning is vital for rural tourism to benefit rural communities. To the city dwellers, the countryside may seem a peaceful haven, whereas for rural people, tourism may cause conflict and distress if there are too many visitors as a high number of tourists’ arrivals may cause noise pollution and traffic congestion. Thus, poorly planned development can destroy community life and ruin the natural environment of rural destinations. Hence, it is timely to investigate the environmental component of tourism destinations in an effort to minimize the destructive impact of tourism. In addition, a carefully planned tourism development enables the local communities to assess the potential of tourism activities in their local areas, and accentuate this potential in a coordinated way that could enhanced the quality of their lives.
This project was designed to analyze rural tourism destinations within the tourism industry in Malaysia. The focus of this study was to examine four major impacts, namely economics, environmental, social and cultural factors of the tourism industry on the local communities. Comments and feedback from various stakeholders of rural tourism industry such as local communities, industry players, tourists, and policy makers were incorporated into the study. In-depth analyses were also conducted to verify the significance and reliabilities of the constructs and items. In addition, an automated web-based system, namely, WikiTours was developed to manage the information whereby it has the ability to display the current situational analysis and the tourism health of selected tourism destination sites by capturing data from various stakeholders (e.g. local communities, tourists, and industry players). This project revealed that the cooperation from various stakeholders has created significant impact on the development of rural tourism. Ultimately, this project has led to the development of a commercialized technology system that best supports in building the rural destination brand and encourages more tourists’ arrival. The system integrates perspectives from industry players and local communities into an online strategy. Furthermore, this has had led to the development of local communities’ capacity building and enhancing employment opportunities of the local communities.
The main objective of this project is to propose a model for destination identity and brand development through effective deployment of positioning strategies through the collaboration of various stakeholders to ensure sustainability of rural tourism development in Malaysia. It is hoped that the collaborative effort from stakeholders would facilitate the local communities to have a fair chance and to participate in the development of their communities.
- Business performance sustainability index model
- Spatial integration
- Hierarchical analysis of the performance sustainability index
- Situational analysis
- Real-time GIS grass-root information of tourism destinations
Local Communities Perspectives
Interviews and focus group studies were conducted at the rural sites i.e., Bario, Long Lamai, Sibu, Tanjung Datu, Pulau Redang and Annah Rais on the impact of tourism and local communities’ aspiration towards tourism. Questions pertaining to environmental component such as the impact of tourism on natural resources, cultural components, heritage/historical resources, supporting facilities/services, infrastructure, hospitalities, sports/recreation activities, transportation/accessibility and many others were asked. From the results of the interview and focus group study, it was found that the communities were grateful with the transformation of their existing residences into homestays that have assisted them in generating income. Hence, it is believed that through community-based tourism, the local communities will treasure the commercial value that is being generated from their natural and cultural resources. In addition, communities’ satisfaction and natural resources are the main concern of the local communities in their aspiration towards tourism development. Other significant concerns from the local communities are on the environmental impact tourism has had on their natural environment as tourists have consumed a vast amount of local and imported nondurable goods.. As their localities are situated in a rural setting, there is a lack of water conservation, waste and energy management facilities. Furthermore rural communities at tourism destinations are becoming more aware and concerned about the environmental issues due to their participation in tourism activities.
A total of 340 sets of questionnaires on environmental constructs were collected from rural communities and analysed. The findings from the questionnaires from communities have indicated that environmental components, namely environment management practice, influence of resources and local satisfaction were found to be significantly related to tourism development. Hence, it was concluded that for rural tourism to be a success, it is important for the local communities to be a part of its development. It was also found that the perceptions of the local communities have significant impact on tourism and these positive perceptions have great potentials in promoting long term sustainability of the rural destinations sites. Tourism development in general has an effect on the social and community’s values and it is imperative that these factors were to be managed carefully as failure to do so would result in a psychological tension among the local communities which may subsequently leads to the local communities of not being supportive of tourism development.
Interviews were conducted at Annah Rais, Pulau Redang and Bario to investigate the service quality and the concerns of the tourists with regards to the environmental issues. Questions were further categorized based on the constructs such as places of interests/culture, resort/homestay atmosphere, outdoor activities, scenery, interest/motive of visits and tourism services provided. In addition, tourists’ have further indicated the important criteria’s that are related to environmental issues. Based on the interviews, the main constructs were formulated.
Another 300 sets of questionnaires were collected and analysed and the results have indicated that places, outdoor and atmosphere are the important dimensions that enhanced tourists’ satisfaction. This study underlines the importance of identifying crucial attributes of a tourist destination.
Industry Players’ Perspectives
Focus group and interviews were conducted at Pulau Redang and Bario to investigate the impact of tourism on industry players and based on the interview; a gap exists between the challenges and opportunities of operating a service/retail-related tourism business at a rural tourism site. Also, there are challenges ahead for the rural industry players to understand the perceptions of their customers and their expectations from tourism industry players. In addition, industry players in rural tourism sites were found to be deficient in strategic planning that could sustain services being offered to the tourists.
A tourism system known as Wikitours is believed to be able to increase collaborative marketing partnerships of rural areas by increasing the relevancy and benefits stakeholders in rural tourism destinations in Malaysia. Moreover, it is also believed that with the development of WikiTours, the stakeholders will be able to operate more efficiently and be more sensitive to the needs and interests of all parties which are directly and indirectly involved in tourism development. The birth of WikiTours facilitates tourism development by reaching out to national and international tourism markets. WikiTours augment marketing activities that would drive a year-round visitation to these destination sites which would ultimately benefited industry players and local communities.
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Lo, M. C., & T. Ramayah (2013). Mentoring and Job Satisfaction in Malaysia. The Impact of Supevisors’ Gender. Technics Technologies Education Management, In Press. (Indexed In ISI).
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Mohamad, A.A., Lo, M.C., Songan, P., & Yeo, A.W. (2012). Dimensionality of Communities’ Belief Attitude Toward Rural Tourism Development: The Case of Bario.British Journal of Arts and Social Sciences, 6, 2, 245-254. (Indexed in EBSCO, SSRN, DOAJ, Ulrich, Cabell's.)(ISSN: 2046-9578)
Lo, M.C., Mohamad, A.A., Songan, P., & Yeo, A.W. (2012). Rural Destinations and Tourists’ Satisfaction.Journal of Services Research, 11, 2, 59-74.(Indexed in EBSCO Publishing, Proquest, Ulrich’s periodical directory, Gale Group/ Thomson Publishing, Cabell Publishing). (ISSN: 0972-4702)
Lo, M.C., Mohamad, A.A., Songan, P., & Yeo, A.W. (2012). Repositioning Strategy In Ecotourism Industry: A Case of Bario. Emerald Business Strategies Series, 13, 1, 41-46. (Indexed in Emerald Management Reviews, OCLC's Electronic Collections Online, Inspec, Scopus). (ISSN: 1751-5637)
Lo, M.C., Mohamad, A.A., Songan, P., & Yeo, A.W. (2012). Rural Tourism Positioning Strategy: A Community Perspective. IPEDR, 28, 22-26. (Indexed in EBSCO, WorldCat, Google Scholar, Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, Engineering & Technology Digital Library). (ISSN: 2010-4626; ISBN: 978-981-07-1080-4).
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Lo, M. C., T. Ramayah, Songan, P., Nair, V., Yeo, A.W. (2013). Communities Attitudes Toward Rural Tourism Development. The 10th Asian Academy of Management International Conference 2013 - Technology Management, Green Business, and Sustainability Issues, Hotel Bayview Beach Resort, Batu Feringgi, Penang, 23rd – 25thAugust, 2013.
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Lo, M. C., T. Ramayah, Songan, P., Nair, V., & Alvin, W. Yeo (2013). Attitude of Communities towards Rural tourism Development. The 10th Asian Academy of Management International Conference 2013, 23rd-25th August, Penang.
Lo, M. C., Nair, V., Songan, P., Lee, H. H. H. (2013). Assessing the impact of rural tourism development on the destination environment: A local communities’ perspective. Best Education Network Think Tank XIII, 23rd to 26th June, Kuala Lumpur.
Nair, V., Mohamed, B., Hamzah, A., Lo, M. C., & Hong, J. L. (2013). Rural tourism 3.0: Conceptualising an innovative approach in measuring the health of rural destinations in Malaysia. International Conference on Rural Tourism: re-inventing rural tourism and the rural tourism experience-Conserving, innnvating, and co-creating for sustainability, 5th-7th September, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal.
Lo, M. C., Wang, Y. C., Songan, P., Alvin, W. Yeo & Mohamad, A. A. (2013). Tourscape: A Systematic Approach Towards A Sustainable Rural Tourism Management. The 8th International Symposium on Digital Earth (ISDE), 26th-29th August, Kuching.
Chin, C. H., Lo, M. C., Songan, P., & Nair, V. (2013). Rural tourism destination competitiveness: The Moderating Impact of communities support. 12th Asia Pacific Forum, 26th-29th June, Kuala Lumpur.
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Lo, M. C., Mohamad, A.A., Songan, P., Yeo, A. W. (2009). Testing Multi-Dimensional Nature of “Service Quality” in a Rural Tourist Destination. The Proceedings of South East Asia Regional Conference, December, 3-5th 2009, Hong Kong Institute of Business Studies, Hong Kong.
Mohamad, A.A., Lo, M. C., Songan, P., Yeo, A. W. (2009). Service Quality and Tourists’ Satisfaction. A Test on Rural Tourist Destination. The Proceedings of 2nd e-Bario Knowledge Fair, November, 4-6 2009, Bario, Malaysia.
1. Gold Medal – British Invention Show, London, 2012 Project Leader Title: Tourscape: An integrated Systematic Approach to Manage Tourism Destinations” 2. Bronze Medal – iENA, Nuremberg, Germany 2013 Project Leader Title: “WikiTours: Achieving Performance Sustainability through Spatial Integration” 3. Gold Medal – PECIPTA 2013 Project Leader Title: “WikiTours: Achieving Performance Sustainability thorough Spatial Integration” 4. Special Award from Qatar – PECIPTA 2013 Project Leader Title: “WikiTours: Achieving Performance Sustainability through Spatial Integration” 5. Gold Medal – Malaysia Technology Exposition (MTE) 2014 Project Leader Title: “WikiTours: Achieving Business Tourism Publicity through Spatial Integration” 6. Special Award – Leading Innovation Award by japan Patent Office, MTE 2014 Project Leader Title: “ WikiTours: Achieving Business Tourism Publicity through Spatial Integration” 7. Special Award – Gold Medal by Jury Panel, MTE 2014 Project Leader Title: “ WikiTours: Achieving Business Tourism Publicity through Spatial Integration”
LO MAY CHIUN