Aisyah_Economics Empowerment of Rural Communities in Homestay

Associate Professor. Dr. Nuraisyah Chua Abdullah
Faculty of Law, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM)
Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia
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
Realizing the potential of CBT in Malaysia, the Rural Tourism
Master Plan was formulated in 2001.
Using the qualitative method, the paper discusses:
a) the concept of extent of economic empowerment of rural
communities over the homestay programmes;
b) the legal problems that arises as a result of economic
empowerment of rural communities in the absence of
comprehensive discussions on these areas; and
c) explores the issue of governance of homestay programme
in the light of sustainability of the programme.
• 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.
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.
(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.
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 noncompliance 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.
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.
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

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