Insurance to protect tourists to become compulsory

National 2 minutes, 56 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

IT WILL soon be mandatory for tourism agencies in Brunei to have insurance to protect their tourists, the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources disclosed during the State Legislative Council (LegCo) sitting yesterday.

"The Tourism Development Department at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources will make it mandatory for all tourism agencies to have insurance to protect all their tourists, as a step to improve the safety of tourists," said Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar.

Although the minister did not elaborate on the new conditions or the date the motion will come into effect, an industry insider told The Brunei Times that most tourism agencies already provide insurance for their clients as part of the package tours offered.

Pehin Dato Hj Yahya made the announcement while responding to questions regarding the safety of tourism facilities in the country, particularly in the Temburong District.

LegCo member Dato Paduka Hj Idris Hj Abas said that some facilities such as the canopy walkway and ladders used for eco-tourism tours were broken due to old age or insufficient maintenance.

"What is saddening is that there have been accidents involving foreign tourists, who have fallen and who have been put in danger. Is the budget (of $1.5 million for the department) enough for the government to maintain these facilities?" asked Dato Paduka Hj Idris.

"If not, negative risks will arise and hinder the attraction of tourists to this country," he added.

The LegCo member also pointed out that the budget for national development projects did not specifically allocate funds for tourism development or promotion. He hoped that it would have been included, since the tourism sector contributes to national Gross Domestic Product.

Fellow LegCo member Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin agreed that the budget was insufficient. "We must attract tourists from the Asia region, such as China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. Together, these countries represent a total population of at least 1.6 billion. I think the current allocation of $1.5 million to promote tourism is not enough," he said.

"We must allocate some money to promote our unique country in the media for each of these countries. We need more allocation for this," he added.

Minister Pehin Dato Hj Yahya noted that Brunei's nascent tourism sector contributed less than one per cent of GDP and was "not as much as we had hoped" in contributing to the national revenue.

He did, however, mention that a budget for tourism infrastructure had been allocated within the Ministry of Development.

Pehin Dato Hj Yahya reminded the LegCo members that Brunei was not aiming for mass tourism and would not follow the trends practised by other countries.

The minister said that the Sultanate banked on its image as a "credible Islamic state" and targeted tourists who were looking for peace and tranquillity, as well as the aspect of healthy living, among others.

This included senior citizens, retirees and family groups looking for these attributes and did not depend on alcohol for their enjoyment.

He said that Brunei's tourism drive had to mirror the way of life and the national philosophy Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Islamic Monarchy).

Other tourism issues raised included improving Brunei International Airport and its immigration system as well as the national carrier's flight schedule to facilitate tourism. The authorities said that efforts were already under way.

The Brunei Times