Story telling

Sabah tour operators urged to promote storytelling

Joniston receiving a momento from Anna Vivienne (left) at the launch of her book, ‘Hauntings and Ghostly Whispers’. – photo courtesy of Edmund Samunting/STB

KOTA KINABALU (December 12): Storytelling should be included in the tourism program of rural tourism, especially in homestays, kampungstays and farms.

As the main objective of these establishments is to provide their tourists with an in-depth experience of local rural lifestyles, the storytelling will enrich their experience with their host families.

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment of Sabah, Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, said that nowadays there are many and various tourism products promoted by these companies, most of which focus on the environment and the people.

“We have hiking, bird watching and herbal education for our tourists. These are the products that can be widely exploited. Inevitably, tour guides can explain what taboos are observed and what traditions are needed to pick, pick or dig these medicinal plants,” he said.

According to him, tourists who opt for rural tourism can not only be interested in the natural environment and the Kampung way of life, but also in their beliefs.

“They will be interested in knowing our cultural and traditional context. I think storytelling is an activity that should be featured as one of the destination’s programs,” said Joniston, who is also chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board.

Speaking at the launch of a book called ‘Hauntings and Ghostly Whispers’ written by Anna Vivienne, at Rumah Terbalik Tamparuli, he said storytelling, when done right and finely, can create an emotional connection between visitors and guests.

This emotional connection is a great form of tourism, where understanding and respect are incepted, he said, adding that emotion is a powerful reaction that can create a strong bond, which in tourism can lead to a ripple effect, a form of promotion and therefore return visits.

He said the homestay, kampung stay and farm stay programs have huge offerings in the form of traditional meals, nature walks, treks, bird watching, herbs and the general atmosphere of the village.

“Add stories, even about how the village was established and that can act as the ‘soul’ of the package. Guides, when they have storytelling skills, can talk about the spiritual aspects of a trek; thus creating a sort of entertaining yet informative experience for their tourists.

“Your marketing tools must bring together the tangible and the intangible. This can allow you to create a memorable experience for visitors and enable your network of tour operators to work together to continue the storytelling cycle.

Tourism is vital to the success of many state economies and economic income and thousands of jobs are generated by this industry, which in turn develops the infrastructure of the destination in question, he said.

The jobs and income opportunities created by tourism are significant with many spinoffs from homestays with their own itinerary or program, he said, adding that they include guides, who will earn a certain sum by mission, craft vendors who sell their wares, food vendors who offer traditional cuisine, traditional dancers during welcoming ceremonies and of course, in the future, storytellers who may tell their stories in the evening for the guests.

On the book, he said that this book is a great souvenir for tourists who don’t want to lug heavy luggage.

“It can be a souvenir for those who want to know the superstitions, beliefs and taboos of the local people. This book can also be used by filmmakers who want to create series on this genre and it can serve as a guide for those who want to include storytelling in their tourist package,” he pointed out.