The tiny wealthy sultanate of Brunei experienced last year a surge in tourism with arrivals to the only independent country on Borneo Island receiving some 10% more travellers according to Salinah Salleh, special officer for marketing at the Tourism Development Department. Border crossings to Brunei jumped by 11.4%.
The Sultanate should then show a total of 4.6 million arrivals for the entire year 2017, according to estimated numbers. It includes day-border crossings from Malaysia through Miri, Labuan and Limbang.
However, arrivals by air remain small, generating some 260,000 foreign travellers – a number based on a growth of 20% for the first eight months of 2017- while visitors arriving by cruise ships are sharply down (-10.3% from January to August) representing less than 20,000 arrivals. “We have difficulties to convince cruise operators to stop in Brunei and we should work out new attractive tour proposals to relaunch this activity”, admitted Mrs. Saleh.
For 2018, authorities believe that total tourist arrivals by air would reach 280,000. Before the end of the decade, Brunei forecasts to receive some 450,000 international air travellers a year. However, looking at current expansion figure, total arrivals is likely to hover more around 350,000.
Brunei enjoyed last year a surge in tourist interest, especially following the Jubilee of the Sultan access to the throne, which gave the opportunity for lavish celebrations.
Brunei’s Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism is now launching new packages for various destinations across the Sultanate which will be promoted actively by the Tourism Development Department. The tour packages focus on the country’s Belait district and position it has a destination for international visitors.
While sightseeing is highlighted in the destination package, other tourism activities in packages highlight: Heritage Drive, Weekend Cultural Experience, Scenic Belait River (Day Cruise); Sunset Dinner Experience (Evening Cruise); Labi Nature Tour; Chasing Teraja Waterfalls, Teraja Labi Belait Birdwatching as well as Tech Dive Belait.
For Salimah Salleh, Brunei tourism continues to be positioned as an eco-tourism, family-oriented destination with highlight being given to rainforest discovery, river tourism, national parks as well as diving.
Other positive developments for Brunei are the addition of more air capacity- particularly by Royal Brunei which is looking at new routes to China. According to Mrs Salleh, only Bandar Sri Begawan-Beijing has been confirmed (see http://asean.travel/2018/01/19/royal-brunei-to-grow-its-fleet-at-its-fastest-pace-in-decades-in-2018). Charter and regular services linked last year Brunei to Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanning and Xian. From January to August, total arrivals from China jumped by 20%, making the country the second largest inbound market for Brunei.
*Many new hotels also opened in the capital city including three-star property Venice Lodge, the Al AAfiah Hotel, the Wafa Hotel and Appartment while Melia is now present in town after taking over the management of the Orchid Garden Hotel.