Preparing Medium Small Micro Enterprises in Rural Tourism for Digitalisation

By Murniati Abu Karim
Photo Shahiddan Saidi

BANGI, 27 September 2021 – In a bid to move forward in the digital economy, Medium Small Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) in Community-Based Entrepreneurship (CBE) need to be upskilled on digital literacy.

Realising this need, the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) jointly organised the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Virtual Workshop on CBE in Rural Tourism through Digital Empowerment.

The five-day virtual workshop served as a platform to share experience, provide guidance and devise a strategy for strengthening rural tourism through the empowerment of digitalisation.

It also aimed at instilling entrepreneurship skills by providing a similar level of growth and development opportunities for people in rural areas and competing with the urban areas.

Speaking at the opening ceremony was MOTAC Senior Director in Tourism Policy and International Affairs Division, Dr. Yasmeen Yasim.

In her speech, she stated that rural tourism players should get more exposure by upscaling the MSMEs in the rural economy.

“There is a vast potential for APEC rural entrepreneurs in the recreation, entertainment, cultural and traditional art sectors, which are related to tourism. When compared to their counterparts in major cities, some of these have a greater potential to contribute to the development of rural areas.

“Community-Based Tourism is a local tourism program managed by the community. These people are not trained as entrepreneurs.

“Research shows that instilling entrepreneurship skills and digitalisation through CBE in rural tourism will significantly narrow the economic gap between urban and rural areas,” she said.

She also highlighted that one of the most significant challenges for MSMEs is that the majority of their employees are unskilled.

“Most business investment strategies are also hindered by the lack of finance, and local markets for selling rural MSMEs’ products are extremely limited. Access and digital literacy are also major concerns.

“Therefore, it is pertinent for tourism-related MSMEs to prepare for these changes. We believe that the information-sharing between APEC’s highly developed economies and developing economies can help the CBE in rural tourism understand digital platforms such as payment gateways and online booking methods.

“Giving them fundamental knowledge in entrepreneurship and digitalisation would provide them with the courage to further explore the digital economy and its unlimited potentials,” she added.

She also expressed hope that the workshop is able to address barriers faced by remote communities and generates ideas for incorporating digital technology into MSMEs activities, effectively closing the digital gap and empowering economically marginalised communities.

A handbook will also be produced as part of the project to improve rural tourism through audience participation.