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ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF RURAL COMMUNITIES IN HOMESTAY PROGRAMMES: LOOPHOLES OF GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE. Associate Professor. Dr. Nuraisyah Chua Abdullah. Faculty of Law, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia. INTRODUCTION ….
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ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF RURAL COMMUNITIES IN HOMESTAY PROGRAMMES: LOOPHOLES OF GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE Associate Professor. Dr. Nuraisyah Chua Abdullah Faculty of Law, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia
INTRODUCTION … • Many governments have used tourism as an important socio-economic catalyst and pro-poor tool for development in peripheral and rural areas in developing countries, and it is an important part of the local economy in many developing countries. • In the 9th Malaysia Plan (2006-2010) and 10th Malaysian Plan (2011-2015), the government focused on the development of rural communities through two strategies; to reduce income imbalance between the rural and urban areas, and between the less developed and more developed states. According to the Tenth Malaysia Plan, raising the living standards of low income households is one of six National Key Result Areas. One specific form of community based tourism that is being aggressively promoted by the Malaysian government is the Homestay Program.
As noted in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation [APEC] Tourism Charter, Community Based Tourism (CBT) is able to create direct employment opportunities as well as increasing income levels and reducing the level of poverty in rural communities. • Realizing the potential of CBT in Malaysia, the Rural Tourism Master Plan was formulated in 2001.
Using the qualitative method, the paper discusses: the concept of extent of economic empowerment of rural communities over the homestay programmes; the legal problems that arises as a result of economic empowerment of rural communities in the absence of comprehensive discussions on these areas; and explores the issue of governance of homestay programme in the light of sustainability of the programme.
TOTAL OWNERSHIP OR MERE OPERATOR? • Among the earlier definitions that calls for the local community to not only manage but own the CBT project or programme is given by the Responsible Ecological Social Tour (REST) (1997). • However, there is a growing debate as to whether CBT should be locally owned and operated or that it could be (fully or partially) owned by outsiders and yet most of the benefits go to the local community. In support of the latter view, The Mountain Institute (2000) does not consider local control as a prerequisite despite taking the view that locals should ultimately benefit from CBT.
It was argued that for CBT to move up the value chain and remain sustainable, it should be mainstreamed by actions such as the setting up of companies to operate the entire tourism supply chain, which he termed as Community Benefiting Through Tourism (CBTT). • This approach has been successfully implemented in Saung Angklung Udjo, Indonesia where the cultural preservation project set up by a local activist has evolved into a CBT company that provides jobs for more than 1,2000 people in 11 neighbouring villages who are mostly not associated with serving the needs of tourists. • This is a clear departure from the traditional definition of local control as defined by the International Ecotourism Society, where a significant number of local people have substantial control over, and involvement in its tourism development and management and the major proportion of the benefits remains within the local economy.
Beeton (2006) has listed several theories related to community-based tourism planning and development. Beeton has emphasized Murphy’s Ecological Model, which was introduced in 1983 and this model is often used to explain the relationship between tourism and local community. Murphy has always stressed more on the local community in comparison to the visiting community by taking a geographical approach when discussing community. In the case of small-scale planning for tourism, more community members should be encouraged to participate in the decision-making process. • Murphy’s model seems to stress the importance of local community participation in tourism planning where greater community involvement in all stages of implementation leads to greater community empowerment.
NON-EQUAL SPREAD OF ECONOMIC BENEFIT TO THE ENTIRE HOMESTAY OPERATORS • Based on a comprehensive study of the performance of CBT projects worldwide, Goodwin and Santili (2009) provided a definition that could capture the contrasting views in term of local ownership, and more importantly, supported the contention by Sofield (2009)that the benefits of CBT projects should not be confined only to their locality but should be spread along the entire supply chain (Hamzah & Mohamad, 2012). • In relation to the economic empowerment given to the operators of the homestay programme, there are many instances where some active homestay operators dominate the tourists’ arrivals in the homestay programme, and as such they benefitted from the homestay programme, whilst ignoring the equal rights of the other homestay operators.
The domination is usually by the members of the special committee of the villagers (Jawatankuasa Kecil Kampung—JKKK) in charge of the homestay programme and it is possible due to the fact that the homestay operators are empowered to operate the programme via the establishment of this committee. • Weakness: • (i) Absence of monitoring system • (ii) Many villagers in Peruas, Raub, Pahang had not been informed about the rural action plan being prepared and they also tended to perceive that any project initiated by the JKKK tended to benefit a few people related to the JKKK. (iii) The JKKK, on the other hand, also complained that they have many jobs to perform apart from their routine jobs such as farming. Some of the JKKK also have other permanent jobs as government servants and teachers and they only perform their duty as the JKKK on part-time basis.
The income generated by homestay programme benefits not only the homestay operators but also to the whole community when they engage in cultural activities, selling of souvenirs and participate in handling tourist packages. Those who are not involved directly in the homestay programs as the hosts would still have other opportunities to increase their income. For example, after the implementation of the homestay program in Kampung Pelegong in Seremban, the handicraft industry has grown in the village and the villagers’ skills in weaving baskets from rattan have been put to use. • Prior to the program, with a limited market, they had no opportunity to make and sell their products on a large scale. At present, they are able to sell their products to the tourists who stay in the village. However, how far is this true? There is yet research to be conducted to discover the extent of economic benefits received by the whole community of the village.
Evolution of Economic Empowerment in Homestay Programme: Legal Framework? • As opposed to MOTOUR, the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development (KKLW) has adopted a more flexible interpretation of the homestay concept. Applying the concept of economic empowerment of villagers in the economy, KKLW adopted the kampungstay concept which also involves tourists staying in a kampung setting but in a standalone accommodation such as chalets. • As such the guest can either have his/her meal with the host family or in the privacy of his/her chalet, and this variant is deemed attractive to Western tourist who value privacy.
Variation of concepts • Of late, many kampung dwellings in the urban fringes in Kota Bahru and Kuala Terengganu have also been converted into stand-alone accommodation and subsequently called homestays by the owners. This recent development has certainly caused confusion among tourists, planners and tourism mangers. • The home visit is another variant that involves visiting and experiencing kampong life without spending a night there. This variant is popular with tourists who are in a hurry but want to have a snapshot view of the country. Interestingly this variant currently constitutes about 90% of all visits to the homestay programme.
Legal remedies as a result of loss of guests’ property, safety of guests’ property and safety of guest in kampungstay are among the legal issues that may arise in the operation of the kampungstay. • At present, the absence of any guidelines to the operation of the kampungstay and basic guidelines that need to be complied in the operation of kampung visits is worrying as it appears that the operators are operating without proper training and proper exposures in the tourism industry—thus this is a threat to the sustainability of the kampungstay and kampung visit.
NON-FULFILMENT OF CULTURAL HERITAGE • Based on observation and research on Taman Sedia Homestay at Cameron Highlands, due to the economic empowerment given to homestay operators, they are now renting out modern style houses to guests and they lack cultural activities to share with the guests. This practice is deviating from the true spirit of the homestay programme which is promoted by the Ministry of Tourism, where cultural activities is an important component of the homestay programme.
In event where homestay operators deviate from the true intentions behind the introduction of homestay programme, the question arises as to the possible action that can be taken by MOTOUR. The question is whether MOTOUR can take action against homestay operators for non-compliance of the component of the homestay programme? • It is also pertinent to address the issue of legal actions that can be taken by MOTOUR against the operators when tourists made complaints to MOTOUR, when there is absence of guidelines as regards to this matter.
NON-REGISTRATION OF HOMESTAY OPERATORS: WHO SHOULD TAKE ACTION? • In event where homestay operators deviate from the true intentions behind the introduction of homestay programme, the question arises as to the possible action that can be taken by MOTOUR. The question is whether MOTOUR can take action against operators for non-compliance of the component of the homestay programme? • It is also pertinent to address the issue of legal actions that can be taken by MOTOUR against the operators when tourists made complaints to MOTOUR, when there is absence of guidelines as regards to this matter.
unregistered operators: MOTOUR and the local authorities refuse to claim custody in such instances. • MOTOUR argues that the Ministry since the operators need not obtain a licence to operate. • The local authority on the other hand, argues that since homestay programme is under the aspect of tourism and tourism falls under the jurisdiction of federal government, therefore, the local authority argues that MOTOUR should be the caretaker of the homestay programme and as such, the local authority denies responsibility in taking action against the unregistered homestay operators.
CONCLUSION • In line with the principle of equal opportunity, the relaxation of strict business standards, free trainings and exclusion of tax are affirmative actions by government to give villagers who are of unequal background a reasonably equal chance to compete for the rewards of life insofar as their talents allow. • Though gradual withdrawal of state support is a pre-condition for greater self-reliance in the tourism industry and is necessary to uphold independent and progressive homestay operators, the issue of governance is crucial to ensure the survival of the homestay programme.