The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) through the Tourism Development Department has taken steps to develop and strengthen Brunei Darussalam’s tourism sector in a bid to ramp up the country’s economic activities.
The Tourism Development Department has identified a number of ambitious tourism products with key initiatives to improve the attractiveness, diversity and quality of tourism products and services as a means to diversify the country’s economy.
The target is to increase the number of visitors to Brunei from 219,000 in 2016 to 450,000 tourists by 2020, and increase tourism revenue from BND69.8 million to BND335 million by 2020. As a result of these initial efforts, the tourism sector has seen an increase in the number of annual tourist arrivals to the country in recent years.
According to recent statistics, Brunei has witnessed an upward trend in visitors over the last three years, with data indicating that tourist arrivals increased by 10 per cent towards the end of 2017 compared to 0.3 per cent in previous years.
In the first quarter of 2018 alone, the total number of international tourist arrivals to Brunei through Brunei International Airport hit 70,729, compared to 67,956 within the same period in 2017, with the country experiencing an increase of 4.1 per cent in inbound visitors year-on-year.
This growth was due to Chinese tourists visiting the country for their Chinese New Year holidays in February as well as international sports events held in the country such as the Richard Mille Brunei Championship and Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association’s (KLPGA) tournament, which gave Brunei wider exposure to the Far East market.
The positive growth was also attributed to new country product development initiatives, such as the Bandar Seri Begawan and Kampong Ayer heritage trails, Tutong Destination Packages,
Belait Destination Packages, Brunei Diving Packages, Temburong Holiday Destination Packages, and the recent Brunei December Festival.
Brunei December Festival is the nation’s month-long festival first held in 2017 featuring over 30 recreational activities, events and programmes held across all four districts. The festival includes existing events such as Bandarku Ceria, Brunei Salebration and various activities at Jerudong Park Playground, and a number of new events catering to both foreign and local tourists.
Brunei has also successfully hosted the third round of the Asian Enduro Series in June 2018, which drew the participation of several international-renowned cyclists and further promoted Brunei as a prime sports tourism destination. Other initiatives held to boost tourism include the launch of the ‘Bird Watching In Brunei Darussalam’ booklet, the Brunei Gastronomy Week and the introduction of the Brunei Diving Packages.
There are also a number of emerging products, including beaches such as Serasa Beach, Muara Beach, Berakas Beach, Seri Kenangan Beach, Meragang Beach and Tungku Beach, as well as forest reserves and recreational parks like Sungai Basong Recreation Park in Tutong District and Berakas Forest Reserve Recreation Park and Bukit Shahbandar Forest Recreational Park in Brunei-Muara District. Other mentionable attractions include Tasek Merimbun in Tutong District and Bukit Teraja in Belait District.
Brunei’s top five markets for visitor arrivals for the last two years are Malaysia at the top spot, China second with 52,391 visitors, followed by the Philippines with 23,157 tourists, Indonesia (22,420) and Singapore (14,919).
The recent surge in tourist arrivals to the country can be attributed to the introduction and enhancement of these tourism products, steps taken to increase air connectivity by Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) and Lucky Air through the introduction of new services to South Korea and China, as well as efforts by the Brunei government to relax visa rules such as offering visa-on-arrival and multiple entry visas for visitors holding China and Taiwan passports.
Lucky Air, a low-cost carrier based in Kunming, China, has appointed Freme Travel Services as their general sales agent to operate twice-weekly direct flights from Brunei to Kunming beginning July 2017. To date, the airline has flown more than 14,000 Chinese tourists into the country.
In addition, RB’s reintroduced direct flight services from Brunei to Taiwan on December 3, 2018, one of the efforts from the airlines to expand its network.
Another local tour operator, Sinar Tours, introduced a chartered flights package with RB in December 2016 which ran for 12 consecutive months until the national carrier decided to introduce scheduled flights to Incheon, South Korea at the end of 2017. South Korea has been identified as one of Brunei’s fastest growing tourist markets.
Since doing so, Brunei has seen a significant uptick in tourists from the East Asian country, with 8,705 visitors recorded for 2017 compared to 3,551 in 2016, a 145.1 per cent increase.
The cruise industry is another area envisaged to play a key role in adding a boost to Brunei’s tourism sector, with further growth expected. Statistics from the Brunei Darussalam Maritime and Ports Authority showed that 16 cruise ships carrying 16,667 passengers and 8,155 crew arrived in Brunei via Muara Port in 2017, while 21 cruise ships with 23,540 passengers and 11,524 crew members visited the country in 2015.
The highest number of cruise ship arrivals to date was recorded in 2010, when 34 vessels docked at Muara Port with 33,860 passengers and 14,310 crew.
The second highest tally was registered in 2014 with 31 cruise ships docking in the country, carrying 18,810 passengers and 20,236 crew members, while the second highest number of passengers was recorded in 2013 at 26,865 (with 16,351 crew members) carried by 25 cruise ships.
Brunei is also beginning to make a name for itself as a destination for Islamic tourism. In the Global Muslim Travel Index for 2018, the country was named the 11th best destination for Muslim travellers among Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, tying with Kuwait.
The country leapfrogged two places from the 2017 survey when it was ranked 13th, clocking in with an average score of 60.5.
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