The pandemic has taken its toll on Brunei Darussalam’s tourism industry, causing a significant downfall in tourism activities and revenues. From 2015 to 2019, Brunei Darussalam recorded an increase of air arrivals at a rate of 11.2 per cent per year.
However, the number has dropped significantly since the country’s first wave of COVID-19 in March 2020, with a decrease of 81.3 per cent compared to the previous year. As travel restrictions were imposed beginning mid-March 2020, only essential travellers were allowed to enter the country. From March 2020 to June 2021, Brunei Darussalam recorded 1,849 air arrivals, compared to the same period in 2020 which shows a total of 60,753 air arrivals. Tourism receipts also decreased by 81.6 per cent, from BND113.1 million in 2019 to BND20.8 million in 2020 according to the Brunei Tourism Performance Report 2020.
Several measures have been taken to facilitate recovery towards rebuilding a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient tourism industry, all of which call for stronger cooperation and coordination.
Meanwhile, at least 320 workers in 15 hotels across the country lost their jobs based on a survey conducted by the Tourism Development Department of the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism. The hotel industry suffered an estimated loss of almost BND6 million for the second quarter (Q2) 2020 to Q2 2021.
As for travel agents, at least 103 employees lost their jobs. Travel agents as a whole suffered a loss of approximately BND28.5 million in revenue in travel package bookings between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021. A total of five travel agent companies applied for temporary closure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several measures have been taken to facilitate recovery towards rebuilding a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient tourism industry, all of which call for stronger cooperation and coordination among stakeholders. In order to assist the tourism industry, the Tourism Development Department, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) has coordinated with several hotels to be used as isolation premises for locals and visitors from abroad.
The department also encourages tourism servicers to promote domestic tourism among locals. In November 2020, the Tourism Development Department launched domestic tourism campaign ‘Selera Bruneiku – A Taste of Brunei’. The campaign showcased interesting food specialties and tourist destinations of each district.
With such efforts, tourism service providers have been able to operate despite the absence of overseas tourists. Locals also have the opportunity to enjoy tourist facilities and visit some of the attractions available in each district, particularly Temburong, which is accessible by the Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge. People from the Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait districts are able to travel and visit Temburong, while enabling Temburong residents to travel to the other districts.
However, following the second wave of COVID-19 in August 2021, strict control measures were reinstated affecting tourism activities including domestic tourism. In light of the situation, the Tourism Development Department is intensifying its efforts to strengthen and further develop tourism products in the country such as the primary tourism products available in Temburong District, Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan, Belait and Tutong districts.
In addition, the department aims to introduce new tourism products or emerging products that have potential such as Sungai Basong Recreational Park, Mukim Labi Sustainable Tourism, as well as beaches such as Serasa and Seri Kenangan.
Efforts have also been made to develop MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) to attract professionals, experts and special interest groups, through events such as the Brunei International Flower Show and Brunei Mid-Year Conference and Exhibition (MYCE). Brunei organised the first International Flower Show and Brunei MYCE in October 2019 and June 2021.
In improving the level of hygiene and safety, continuous inspections and assessments of tourist places and facilities have been conducted to ensure cleanliness, comfort and accessibility. Inhouse training has also been provided to service providers and frontline employees, including tour guides, focussing on upskilling and reskilling to improve service quality. This includes providing skills training to community-based tourism to ensure they are able to meet the requirements and needs of local visitors and tourists.
Efforts have also been made to develop MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) to attract professionals, experts and special interest groups.
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