Indigenous people are well-equipped with natural and cultural resources that can be commodified for tourism development, and with systematic community capacity building and empowerment, these communities can become self-reliant in managing their tourism operations independently. A group of researchers from University Putra Malaysia led by Dr. Puvaneswaran Kunasekaran kicked off “Orang Asli Empire” program at Kampung Sungai Ruil, Cameron Highlands. To this end, a team of researchers from University Putra Malaysia, led by Dr. Puvaneswaran Kunasekaran, initiated the “Orang Asli Empire” program in collaboration with the Department of Orang Asli Affairs (JAKOA), ASEAN Tourism Research Association (ATRA), Sustainable Tourism Impact Lab, Taylor’s University, and Malaysian Community Development and Planning Association (MyCDA) in Kampung Sungai Ruil, Cameron Highlands.
In the first phase of the program, the researchers explored existing resources and potentials that the community possess. A naturalistic inquiry found that the community is highly interested in conducting tourism in their village; however, a lack of tourism and entrepreneurial skills creates a hurdle for them. The Tok Batin (Village Headman) of the community expressed that the community is strategically located in a top tourism destination of the country. Venturing into tourism is an easy option with relevant support from other stakeholders. The community members suggested that tourism would help them reestablish their ‘forgotten’ traditional practices such as Tarian Sewang (traditional dance), weaving, and indigenous people’s games. In the next phase of the program, the villagers will be exposed to relevant skills to start their tourism operations gradually.