Backyard Tour started off as a social experiment in 2015. The founders wanted to try out an initiative that could enable villagers in Sarawak to earn an income right in their backyard, rather than having to migrate to the cities far away from their homes to earn a living.
How It Began
Backyard Tour wants to empower the rural community through community-based tourism. However, it is more than just a travel experience company.
“Our concept was - to have authentic and meaning experiences, the travellers must go to the source. We started in a village inhabited by Bidayuh tribespeople. Because we were youth, we also looked for youth to be tour guides. Initially, 10 to 15 villagers committed to try it to earn extra income,” said Abbie Hosanna Anak Ruang, co-founder of Backyard Tour.
Eventually, the founders converted their social project into a company, and expanded to three villages - Kiding Village, Sadir Village and Begu Village. They got a boost when they were selected to join the the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) Accelerator Programme. MaGIC taught them how to run their company. The revenue was not high at that point, but they saw the potential. They were also given the opportunity to connect with NGOs to carry out projects in the villagers to improve the villagers’ quality of life.
“Sarawak is a special place that is rich in culture and has beautiful nature. But we realised that most Sarawakian households fall under the B40 category. I grew up in a rural area located 1 hour away from Kuching City, and I’ve seen how my own family members and relatives struggled to find jobs. Most of them ended up going to the big cities like Kuala Lumpur to hustle and earn an income,” said Abbie.
Empowering Communities in Rural Sarawak
Backyard Tour provides training for the villagers to coach them on how to conduct tour services. After that, the social enterprise continues to guide and work together with the villagers, helping to facilitate the process in order to ensure they can do it professionally and provide a good experience for the travellers.
“We go to the faraway villages tucked in the jungles of Sarawak to engage with different village communities because we believe in building real relationships. As a result, we have designed each of our trip experiences from the ground up with the villagers. We are willing to go the extra mile bring to travellers the most authentic travel experiences available in Sarawak,” said Abbie.
The social enterprise faced problems because they were relatively unknown. It had a very low branding presence. It also did not have enough financial resources to run training programmes outside of Kuching.
“The PUSH programme enabled us to scale up to reach more villagers. We were able to train up to 90 villagers in seven other locations throughout Sarawak. With the 11 villagers that we currently have, we were able to generate revenue of around RM50,000. We hope to reach more villagers, to train them and empower them to earn more income in the future,” said Abbie.
Backyard Tour is a part of the Pemangkin Usahawan Sosial Hebat (PUSH) programme, and supported by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and MaGIC. PUSH is a scale-up programme with an ambition to grow social enterprises and increase their social impact through a personalised capacity building and skills development training.
“We were able to generate more revenue by offering more unique tour packages. It’s a good opportunity that not only helped us to sustain the business, but also really helped to impact our beneficiaries in a positive way. All the social enterprises out there should try it,” said Abbie.
Currently, the tours provide a part-time income for the guides. Backyard Tour hopes that in the future, community-based tourism can become a significant income generator for the villages. Besides conducting tours, they have seen the potential to earn income by providing local stays.
“When their income increases and stabilises, they can improve the quality of life of their families without needing to leave their homes to work in faraway cities,” said Abbie.
Sign Up for a Tour
Feeling a little adventurous? Fly to Sarawak and go off the beaten track with Backyard Tour and their local orang asli guides to discover the hidden gems of the land of the hornbills. It is a great opportunity to enjoy the pristine beauty of nature and the enchanting cultures of the villages. Tours can also be customised according to your requirements. Do not miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!