Brunei aggressively making changes to tourism industry

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ ANN) - Brunei's tourism ministry, in a forum said that in the last 18 months, the ministry has achieved a number of accomplishments and have been aggressively making changes to the country’s tourism industry.

The forum the minister spoke in was the Sales and Marketing Forum (SMF), which began yesterday and will end on January 19, held at the Radisson Hotel.

“We have been focusing on product development and will continue to do so, in order to stay competitive within this region. We have been spending time refining existing products such as Temburong, Bandar Seri Begawan and Kampong Ayer. Next would be Tutong, Belait and other recreational destinations such as our beaches, forests and parks,” said the minister.

At the same time, the ministry is also enhancing some activity-based products such as diving, bird-watching and community-based tourism such as homestays and village activities.

“We have also established the Brunei Tourism Board (BTB), which is an important platform for the ministry to communicate with stakeholders both in the government and private sectors. The main objectives of the BTB are to give policy directives on the activities related to tourism and provide a platform for dialogue between the public and private sectors on issues related to tourism,” he added.

The ministry has also repealed the 1978 Travel Agents Act and enacted the Tourism Order 2016 to keep the country’s legal framework in line with current tourism development and affairs. In this regard, the minister said he could see the need for the country’s national carrier to work closely with other tourism stakeholders including hotels, travel agents, tour operators and transport operators in devising a comprehensive, yet competitive travel programme and pricing for clients.

“I strongly believe that as you are working for the national carrier, the Brunei Tourism Board (BTB) would also expect you to promote both the airline and to promote Brunei as a tourist destination. Hence, the BTB can also serve as a platform for you to make the engagement with the relevant stakeholders,” said the minister.

The minister also outlined that the mission of the Tourism Development Department is to increase growth in the number of tourists by focusing on strengthening the attractiveness and diversity of tourism products and improve the quality of tourism services. In this context, the ministry is aiming to double the number of tourists’ arrival by air from 218,000 in 2015 to 450,000 by 2020. From January to September 2016, the total number of international tourist arrivals into the country by air was 163,023, compared to 165,872 over the same period last year.

Although there was a decline of 1.7 per cent on year growth, source markets from the Far East such as Hong Kong, South Korea, China and Japan have continued to show positive growth with an increase of 41.3 per cent, 26.7 per cent, 9.8 per cent and two per cent respectively,” the minister added.

The top five countries for tourist arrivals to Brunei Darussalam from January-September 2016 was Malaysia with 24.2 per cent of the total arrivals, followed by People’s Republic of China (19.2 per cent), Indonesia (9.6 per cent), the Philippines (7.8 per cent) and Singapore (6.4 per cent) of the total. Overall, the top five countries have contributed the majority portion of international tourist arrivals into the country from January to September 2016 at 67.2 per cent of total arrivals.

The main purpose of visit to the Sultanate was for leisure and holiday at 43.5 per cent of total arrivals. China and Malaysia remained as the main contributors for leisure and holiday market at 56.8 per cent of total arrivals in 2016.

The country’s current strategy in developing tourism primarily focuses on tourism product development and the efforts to upgrade and improve existing tourism packages currently being offered to tourists. Therefore, good tourist products must be affordable, value for money, interesting, memorable, fun, unique, safe, clean and so on. With these good tourist products and services, the country can entice tourists to come back and visit Brunei repeatedly. The ministry has identified three categories of tourism products namely primary, emerging and activity-based tourism products.

SMF 2017 was attended by more than 150 participants comprising Royal Brunei Airlines’ (RB) local headquarters staff and RB’s overseas staff. One of the activities organised was an internal RB Amazing Race around Bandar Seri Begawan, which aimed to strengthen the bond between headquarters and overseas staff, and also familiarising RB’s overseas participants to tourist spots around town.

The forum was held to explore how both the ministry and RB can improve tourism in Brunei. The closed forum session discussed RB’s sales and marketing objective and strategy for the next five years.