TENOM: The local Hakka community here is jumping on the tourism bandwagon to promote Tenom as a destination for those interested in Hakka cuisine and culture.
On Sunday, the community gathered at a newly established Hakka farmstay at Kampung Lagud to share some of their delicacies with the Sabah Tourism Board team led by chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.
The farmstay initiated by local entrepreneur Lawrence Wong is a new community tourism product and a first step forward in the process of empowering the Hakka community there.
Kampung Lagud is home to about 30 Hakka families, all are farmers with an eye toward turning their area into Lagud Hakka Cultural and Farms Village.
Wong, who frequently travelled for business, said he returned to the village to establish a farmstay after being motivated to do so by several successful communities and rural tourism stories.
“This is not something I will undertake on my own because teamwork is essential for moving the community forward and empowering the village through tourism.
“We are confident that the Sabah Tourism Board will assist the Hakka community here as this will surely boost our confidence to partake in tourism success,” he said.
Wong’s farmstay provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about local crops, as Tenom is well-known for agrotourism. They also encourage guests to tour neighbouring farms run by the villagers.
In addition, the farmstay collaborated with other Hakka farmers and restaurateurs to provide authentic meals for visitors to sample.
Entrepreneur Tham Yau Kong, who runs Padas Farmstay, opined that food tourism is a significant segment that has the potential to attract returning customers.
“Having been in the (tourism) industry for so long, I want to share the successful experience I have gained and help the local Chinese communities here because they are rich in culture, tradition and heritage.
“Tenom Hakka food has been around for decades but little has been done to market it. Therefore, I want to spread the word so more people can come here to explore and enjoy authentic Hakka cuisine,” he remarked.
He also hoped that the Kudat district, which also has a sizable Hakka population, would be inspired by the initiative taken by Tenom’s Hakka community.
Meanwhile, Joniston said expanding gastronomic tourism in this interior district would allow Tenom to capitalise on the demand for authentic Hakka experiences.
“This is a good start to elevate the Hakka community and I see the potential of expanding this effort to other districts, where there is a Hakka population.
“We at the Sabah Tourism Board see this as an effort to bring in more tourists, especially the Chinese, and I am confident this authentic experience will become a hit not only for tourists but also locals,” said the Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment.
In addition to visiting Kampung Lagud, the Sabah Tourism team also stopped by Tenom Valley operated by Roger Voo; Tropical Fruits Farm run by Ken Lim, Pamelo Tenom Farm operated by Fiona Yong, and Padas Farmstay for product updates during their work visit.