Success of Ecotourism Sites and Local Community Participation in Sabah
Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, is an ecotourism destination that is well known in the international tourism scene, where nature and culture has been positioned as the two main products. With high biodiversity and more than 30 distinctive cultures, ecotourism has been embraced by all stakeholders in the state since the 1990s. After a decade or so, many stakeholders are very eager to judge and give judgments of what success entails. The complexity of the stakeholders' characteristics usually results in various perceptions of success. The thesis sets out to interpret and develop the indicators for success of local community participation and ecotourism sites in Sabah. Both, local community participation and ecotourism site were chosen due to the nature of the ecotourism industry where business and community development is very closely tied together. This thesis employs plans and policy analysis and comparative case study as its methodology. The data were then analysed to get the results, which are success indicators for local community participation and ecotourism sites based on the perception of stakeholders. The indicators emerged from the analysis are put into perspective by analysing the results with the analysis of plans and policies and case studies. Two sets of indicators are proposed, both for local community participation success and ecotourism site's success, which is valuable to the industry in reviewing their current plans and policies. It is also useful in monitoring and evaluating current local community participation activities. The indicators are quite consistent with those others drawn from the literature review. The analysis also shows that there are issues that need to be addressed with regards to these indicators. These indicators are output-based, therefore there is a need to establish the measurement or the parameters of these indicators to make it more quantifiable and more meaningful. Another aspect that the thesis identified is that the strongest indicators are those that were agreed by all stakeholders and the recipients that benefits are both the site and the local community. While this is emphasising the importance of local community in the ecotourism set up, it is also suggested that a set up of an integrated development and management among stakeholders, of local community and ecotourism with the common objective and common operational process, are seen as successful. This will contribute to tourism literature by enhancing the knowledge of ecotourism, and to the ecotourism industry by providing a means of evaluating local community participation activities and ecotourism sites.