Growth in tourist traffic recorded in first half of year

National 3 minutes, 16 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

BRUNEI recorded “substantial growth” in international arrivals for the first half this year, the acting tourism director said recently as she called for greater collaboration to spread the costs of infrastructural investment.

Some 122,000 people arrived by air from January to June – more than half of them travelling with Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) - with hotel occupancy rates improving by 6.87 per cent. This was compared to a total of 209,000 air arrivals recorded for the whole of last year.

“Total growth over the period of 2007 to 2012 is 3.1 per cent. This year, we’ve seen quite a lot of substantial growth at 13.7 per cent,” said Mariani Hj Sabtu, the acting director of the Tourism Development Department.

Speaking at a forum to discuss the viability of introducing a Brunei-based regional airline to provide feeder services for RB, the acting director recalled that last year’s arrivals of 241,000 visitors represented an 11.7 per cent decline from the 2011 figures.

However, she noted the rise in visitors coming to Brunei by cruise ships.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in cruise arrivals. We’ve campaigned quite a lot to bring more cruises to Brunei and it’s bearing fruit since this year,” she said.

There was a 77 per cent growth in cruise arrivals recorded in the first six months of this year, with Mariani telling The Brunei Times that they expected the figure to reach 40,000 by the end of the year.

Cruise arrivals were expected to more than double next year, as she shared that there were already 90,000 “confirmed callers” for 2014.

“So we want to sustain this momentum,” she told the paper, as she called on the ports authorities and the surrounding communities to be ready for the influx.

ASEAN remained the top regional source market for air arrivals in Brunei this year, comprising more than 50 per cent of passengers and growing at a rate of 10.5 per cent. Visitors from Malaysia represented a quarter of total air arrivals, followed by China (12.5 per cent), Indonesia (9.8 per cent) and the Philippines (8.3 per cent).

Visitor numbers from Europe and long-haul markets grew by 13.4 per cent, which Mariani said was “a very big improvement this year”. Australia and New Zealand showed the most promise as the number of passengers from there rose by 29.5 per cent compared to the first half of last year.

“We concentrated our focus in 2012 to promote Brunei in Australia. We’ve managed to do a couple of roadshows in Australia,” the acting tourism director said.

Leisure and holiday was the top reason visitors came to Brunei, accounting for 46 per cent of total international travels this year, while 22 per cent were here for business and professional purposes.

“Most tourists are really fascinated with the royal (regalia),” she said.

“More than 90 per cent of our visitors visited culture-related or combination nature tourism products located at and around Bandar Seri Begawan and Kampong Ayer.

”These attractions were emphasised under the Tourism Master Plan 2011-2015, which identified two tourism clusters: Nature, and Culture and Islamic tourism, and the respective projects to boost attractions under these clusters.

Consultants commissioned to formulate the master plan had deduced that the Sultanate’s tourism infrastructure was “quite sufficient and of high quality”, Mariani recalled.

“However, we are still lacking in tourist information and ground transportation.”

Education, health and wellness tourism were also still “underdeveloped”, while sports tourism was still unable to attract strong international participation. The country also “lacked the effort to develop and leverage” on the culture and heritage sector.

The acting tourism director also shared concerns over funding for infrastructure and other initiatives needed to boost visitor numbers, which she said were “very much constrained”. Should all the projects in the master plan be realised, the consultants forsee an increase in visitors by 27 per cent, or 200,000 more visitors. Investment was also expected to increase by 53 per cent ($48 million), visitor expenditure to increase by 50 per cent ($351 million) and employment to increase by 38 per cent (8,153 jobs).

The Brunei Times