Uma Thevi Munikrishnan, Sushila Devi Rajaratnam, Paolo Mura & Vikneswaran Nair
This paper focuses on the participation of local residents in rural tourism development in Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia. The relationship between community participation and rural tourism development has not been extensively researched in the context of developing countries. In an attempt to fill this gap, this study examines the role played by a specific community-based cooperative, KOPEL, in the development of tourism in a Malaysian rural community. Hence, an in-depth analysis of the local residents’ participation in KOPEL’s tourism activities and its impacts is deemed relevant. Driven by an interpretivist approach to research, qualitative in-depth interviews and participant observation were the main data collection methods employed to address the research questions. The findings are themed into four categories: (1) planning and empowerment, (2) awareness and training, (3) collaboration with other stakeholders and (4) impacts of rural tourism. The paper’s contribution to knowledge is threefold: First, this paper provides an insight into rural tourism development from a non-Western perspective; second, this study advances our understanding of highly debated concepts, such as community and community participation; finally, this paper contributes to shed light on the role played by cooperatives in enhancing community participation in tourism.
Keywords: Rural tourism, community, community participation, cooperative, Malaysia