Eurasian Journal of Biosciences

Indigenous knowledge and cultural tourism among the Mah Meri people in Malaysia


Cultural tourism is a great potential source of economic gains for local industries and indigenous people. The aboriginal people of Malaysia known as Orang Asli have used their indigenous knowledge (IK) as part of their cultural tourism. This study aims to explore the attractions of cultural tourism by the Mah Meri tribe. This qualitative study includes semi-structured interviews of ten research participants, participant observation, and document analysis. The intrinsic case study is conducted at a well-known indigenous cultural tourism site at Carey Island in Selangor. The in-depth interviews are audio-taped, transcribed, and checked for converging themes to understand the community resources of IK which contribute to cultural tourism practices. Findings showed that wood carvings, mask carvings, pandanus weavings, and cultural performance are the most important practices of the Mah Meri tribe. These practices contribute to their income and the development of indigenous cultural tourism. The observations show that the community is extremely proud of its cultural heritage and often perform their cultural practices, especially for tourists. This study also provides major implications for the improvement of cultural tourism. Tourism authorities play an important role in the development of local cultural tourism quality standard. Specifically, tourism authorities can promote local cultural tourism and preserve the IK by passing it to the younger generations.


  • Aboriginal Tourism in Canada. (2003). Part 1: Economic Impact Analysis BearingPoint LP, Goss Gilray Inc., and Associates: Canada
  • Adam, A.A, Othman, N., Halim, A.A., Ismail, S.R., & Samah, A.A. (2019). The practice of biodiversity –related indigenous knowledge in Kota Belud, Sabah: A Preliminary Study. Pertanika J. Soc. Sci. & Hum. 27 (S1): 215 - 225 (2019)
  • Altman, J. (1988). Aborigines, Tourism, and Development: The Northern Territory Experience, Australian National University, North Australia Research Unit, Canberra, ACT.
  • Altman, J. (1989). The Aboriginal Arts and Crafts Industry.Report of the Review Committee, Department of Aboriginal Affairs, July, AGPS, Canberra, ACT.Altman J., & Finlayson, J. (1992). Aborigines, tourism and sustainable development, Discussion Paper, No. 26, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.
  • Altman, J. (1993). Indigenous Australians in the National Tourism Strategy: Impact, Sustainability, and Policy Issues, Discussion Paper No. 37, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.
  • Altman, J. (2003). People in the country, healthy landscapes, and sustainable Indigenous economic futures: The Arnhem Land case’, The Drawing Board, An Australian Review of Public Affairs, vol. 4, pp. 65-82.
  • Brascoupe, S., & Mann, H. (2001). A Community Guide to Protecting Indigenous Knowledge. Ottawa, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
  • Bunten, A. C. (2010). More like ourselves: Indigenous capitalism through tourism. American Indian Quarterly, 34(3), 285-311,407. Retrieved from
  • Carino, J., & Colchester, M. (2010). From dams to development justice: Progress with “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” since the world comission on dams. Water Alternatives, 3(2), 423-437.
  • Chang, L. L., F. Backman, K., & Chih Huang, Y. (2014). Creative tourism: a preliminary
  • Ching, C. C. S. (2018). Hegemony and agency in staged Mah Meri indigenous music and dance performances for tourists in Malaysia. Jati-Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 23(1), 132-155
  • Cooper, D. R., & Schindler, P.S. (1998). Business Research Methods. Singapore: McGraw-Hill, 1998. 45-49
  • examination of creative tourists’ motivation, experience, perceived value and revisit intention. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 8(4), 401-419.
  • Hoppers, CAO. (2004). ‘Indigenous Knowledge Systems: An Invisible Resource in Literacy Education’. (accessed: 25 August 2005).
  • Ibrahim, Y. (2008). Pembangunan pelancongan dan perubahan komuniti. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur.
  • JAKOA. (2011b). Pelan Strategik Kemajuan Orang Asli: 2011-2015. Kuala Lumpur: Bahagian Perancangan dan Penyelidikan, JabatanKemajuan Orang Asli.
  • Julian et al., (2011). Traditional indigenous approach to healing and the modern welfare of traditional knowledge, spritual and land: A critical reflection on practises and policies taken from the Canadian indigenous example. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 2(4).
  • Kagoda, A. M. (2009). Integrating appropriate indigenous knowledge in the geography lessons in secondary schools of Uganda. In Current Research Journal of Social Sciences, 1(3), 117–122.
  • Kalsom, K., Nor Ashikin, M. N., & Mohmad Amin, M. I. (2004). Pelancongan dan Pembangunan Komuniti. In Dani Salleh (Ed.), Pembangunan Komuniti: Dasar, Konsep, Strategi dan Isu di Malaysia (pp. 150). Sintok: Universiti Utara Malaysia.
  • Khairul Hisyam, K., & Ibrahim, N. (2007). Pembangunan Mapan Orang Asli. Skudai: UniversitiTeknologi Malaysia.
  • Kumar, R.; (2011). Research methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners. London: Sage
  • Lambin, R., Wahab, N. A., Choo, G. S., Mustapha, R., & Abdullah, R. (2018). A Case Study of Orang Asli Indigenous Knowledge in Traditional Medicine. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 8(4), 970–982.
  • Mackenzie, K., Siabato, W., Reitsma, F., & Claramunt, C. (2017). Spatio-temporal visualisation and data exploration of traditional ecological Knowledge/Indigenous knowledge. Conservation and Society, 15(1):
  • Magni, G. (2017). Indigenous knowledge and implications for the sustainable development agenda. European Journal of Education, 52(4), 437-447.
  • Mapunda, G. (2001). ‘Indigenous Tourism as a Strategy for Community Development: An Analysis of Indigenous Business Initiatives in South Australia’, Proceedings of the CAUTHE National Research Conference, pp. 218-232.
  • McKercher, Bob, & Du Cros, Hilary. (2002) Cultural Tourism. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Hospitality Press.
  • Mohd Yusop, A. H, Rohayu, R., Abdul Rasid A.R., Mohamad Zaid, M., Jamil, A.B., (2013). Poverty eradication through vocational education (tourism) among indigenous people communities in Malaysia: Pro-Poor Tourism Approach (PPT), Procedia - Social and BehavioralSciences93, pp.1840 – 1844
  • Muzium Pribumi. (2007). Profil Masyarakat Pribumi Mah Meri. Kuala Lumpur: Jabatan Muzium Malaysia.
  • Norasmah, O. & Husnorhafiza, H. (2011). Cabaran dan Kelestarian Hidup Masyarakat Orang Asli dalam Kerjaya Keusahawanan. (pp. 213-232). Bangi: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
  • Olaomo. A. Azeez. (2011). Indigenous Art of West Africa in Wood. Global Journal of Human Social Science Volume 11 Issue 2
  • Puvaneswaran, K., Sarjit S. G., Abdul Talib, T., Ma’rof, R. (2013). Culture as an indigenous tourism product of Mah Meri community in Malaysia. Life Science Journal 2013;10(3)
  • Puvaneswaran, K., Sridar, R., Sarjit, S. G. (2016). Utilizing cultural and natural resources towards sustainability of indigenous tourism: A case study of Mah Meri community in Carey, Island, Malaysia. Institut Kajian Dasar Pertanian dan Pemakanan. Options, Vol. 20(1).
  • Quiggin, R. (2008). Indigenous Knowledge and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Australian Jurnal of Indigenous Education, 37(S1), 46-55. doi:10.1375/S1326011100000363
  • Rahim, R. (2007). Chita’ Hae, culture, crafts and customs of the Hma’ Meri in Kampung Sungai Bumbon, Pulau Carey.Center for Orang Asli Concerns, Tompoq Topoh.Subang Jaya, Malaysia.
  • Ramlee, A. (2008). Orang Asli dalam Arus Pembangunan Nasional di Terengganu. In Ma’rofRedzuan&Sarjit S. Gill (Eds.), Orang Asli; Isu, Transformasi dan Cabaran (pp. 46). Serdang: Universiti Putra Malaysia.
  • Richards, G. (2018). Cultural tourism: A review of recent research and trends. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management 36 pp: 12-21
  • Rohayu, R., Yusmarwati, Y., & Noor Sharipah, S.S. (2015). Factors that influence the success of MahMeri tribe in tourism Sector, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 204, 335 – 342
  • Samukelisiwe M. N. (2018). Conserving cultural heritage and the usage of indigenous knowledge: A case study of the Zululand District Municipality, Kwazulu-Natal. African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, Volume 7 (2) -
  • Shah, N.M., Che’Rus, R., Mustapha, R., Hussain, M.A.M., & Wahab, N.A. (2018). Sustainable Indigenous Tourism: A Case Study in Tapah, Perak. Sains Humanika, 10(3)
  • Shizha, E. (2008). Indigenous? What indigenous knowledge? Beliefs and attitudes of rural primary school teachers towards indigenous knowledge in the science curriculum in Zimbabwe. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 37(1), 80-90.doi:10.1017/S1326011100016124
  • Siambombe, A., Mutale, Q. & Muzingili, T. (2018). Indigenous knowledge systems: a synthesis of Batonga people’s traditional knowledge on weather dynamism. African Journal of Social Work, 8(2).
  • Tang, R., & Gavin, M. C. (2016). A classification of threats to traditional ecological knowledge and conservation responses. Conservation and Society, 14(1), 57-70.
  • Ulluwishewa, R., Roskruge, N., Harmsworth, G., & Antaran, B. (2008). Indigenous knowledge for natural resource management: a comparative study of Māori in New Zealand and Dusun in Brunei Darussalam. GeoJournal, 73(4), 271-284.
  • UNWTO. (2001). Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, UNWTO, Madrid (online), available at: all/files/docpdf/gcetbrochureglobalcodeen.pdf (20-07-2017)
  • UNWTO. (2018). Report on Tourism and Culture Synergies. Madrid: UNWTO.
  • Whap, G. (2001). A Torres Strait Islander perspective on the concept of indigenous knowledge. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 29(2), 22-29. https://:10.1017/S1326011100001368
  • WTO. (1985). Developing Tourism. World Tourism Organization.
  • Yin, R. K. (2014). Case Study Research Design and Methods (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 282 pages. The Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation. 10.3138/cjpe.30.1.108.
  • Yin, R., (1994). A Case study research: Design and methods (2nd ed.). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publishing.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.