THE villagers of Sungai Kilim in Langkawi struck gold several years ago when foreigners were willing to pay up to RM200 for a boat ride to enjoy the natural view of their village.
Since then, they decided to work with the Government to develop agro-tourism products in their kampungs, which managed to lure over 10,000 tourists each month.
Their success story received government recognition when their village was picked as the winner for the Anugerah Ilham Desa 2009 last week. Ilham Desa is a programme where villages are recognised for coming up with income generating products.
The prize presentation ceremony is held in a different state every year. This time around, it was held in Johor. Kampung Sungai Kilim representative Ahmad Nizar Hanapiah said his team was happy to have been given the top honour and thanked all those involved.
“The idea for the project was initiated a few years ago when a tourist willingly paid one of the villagers RM200 for taking him around in a boat,” he said.
Nizar explained that the villagers expanded on the idea and started to come up with different tour packages that included trips to the nearby bat caves, eagle-watching, fish feeding and a sea tour.
“We now have a steady flow of tourists from Europe, the Middle East and Asia such as India, Pakistan, Japan and Taiwan,” he said.
He explained that some of the villagers were even attending English classes to be able to converse with the foreign visitors.
“We have already set up English tuition classes for primary and secondary students so that they have a better comprehension of the language,” he said, adding that many adults were also attending the lessons. “Last year alone, our village welcomed more than 108,000 nature lovers and many in the cottage industry have benefited from this tourism business,” he said.
He added that each package costs between RM200 and RM450.
Nizar is part of a team of 128 people handling the Kilim Geoforest Park project in Langkawi.
For their effort, the village re-ceived RM30,000 cash and RM20,000 for study tours overseas from the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.
The award was created as part of the Government’s aim to help village folk develop and increase their income through niche projects within their kampung, he said.