Kota Kinabalu: To make the Heart of Borneo Initiative happen, funding is vital, says Remote Tourism expert, Dr. Lisa M King.
Speaking to reporters at the closing ceremony of the recently concluded International Conference on Heart of Borneo Initiative in the city, she said that in terms of tourism, they are lots more things to be done but they need adequate funding to timely execution.
"We can find people to do the community works and education, we have the capacity to facilitate infrastructure and things like that but we need the money to see this happen, it's the bottom line.
"I think there's political will, there's certainly desire to move things forward but it can't happen without expertise, although that (expertise) is donated in large part but some need to be paid for as well, it needs funding, we need funding. That's the biggest challenge," she said, responding to a question on the biggest challenge her team is facing so far.
Dr. King added that infrastructure is also another challenge as the tourism industry in the HoB needs transportation infrastructures to be accessed but according to her, it has to be done carefully and sensitively to protect the natural environment.
"The HoB is an adventure, it's an experience, so from the minute you're approaching in that car or on that rail road they're proposing, you want a sense of adventure that you're going to a place that's special and unique. We want to build and develop HOB project as something different compared to every place in the world," she continued.
She however said that they are still in the beginning stages so that plans may change according to new inputs and circumstances.
"When new information comes in, new experts come on board, we'll learn new things, so we don't want to have a static plan that can't change, we want to keep it flexible, of course", added Dr. King.
An expert in various disciplines including Marine Science, and an enthusiast of nature and community, Dr. King said she participated because she wants to make a difference, and the HoB is a good avenue to contribute in ways she can. In her endeavour to develop the areas, she is however keeping in mind that the native communities' decisions must be respected. She said, part of the project is to get the communities involved in decision making, on how they want their communities to be, whether they want to participate in the projects or not is their decisions.
"It should be the choice of the locals, we should not be the external energies that say we'll force this upon you, no. We need to work with the local people, educate them of the value of it (HoB) so they can make their own decisions on how they want to move forward", explained Dr. King.
Describing the conference as one of the bests in terms of organization, where it brought in people of similar interest from diverse backgrounds from all over the world to exchange knowledge and learn from each other.
On top of that, she is confident that the findings and issues raised during the event will be looked into by relevant parties.
"They brought in a lot of powerful people into this project, I think they're listening very closely and it's a nice, safe conducive environment where they can listen, and people can ask questions to increase our knowledge base and things like that. I think this is a very important project, truly", she said as the interview concluded.--Courtesy of New Sabah Times