Villagers still hesitant to rent out rooms for homestays

National 2 minutes, 23 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

EFFECTIVELY raising awareness among Kampung Sungai Bunga’s residents on the benefits of attracting tourists remains the main challenge in promoting the village’s homestay initiative, said the secretary of its Village Representative Council (MPK).

The bid to make Kg Sungai Bunga a main tourist site through its homestay programme hasn’t been easy, said Zaini Hj Salleh, as some of the villagers have yet to try renting out rooms to local and foreign guests because they still have negative preconceived notions about tourists.

He was speaking on the sidelines of Flavours of BIMP-EAGA: Culture & Food Expo 2016 yesterday at the Airport Mall.

“You know how it is. Bruneians sometimes have these notions of outsiders as we’re so used to our own (culture). But the families (here) that actually did rent out their rooms to tourists, be it for one night or two, are now very willingly offering their homes again after clearing up these notions.

“However, it has still been very slow to get the message across to the residents. But I have high hopes that it will eventually work,” he said, adding that the council is looking to involve all 112 houses of Kg Sungai Bunga in the homestay programme.

He said the homeowners who did rent out rooms were happy to do it again after realising how rewarding it is to invite tourists.

“There was one case where tourists stayed with a family and it was the first time for this homeowner to rent out a room in his home. At the same time, a relative of the homeowner was getting married.

“The tourists (that stayed with them) saw this as an opportunity to actively participate in a cultural wedding ceremony of Brunei and scattered the bunga rampai (a potpourri of finely shredded pandanus leaves mixed with flower petals and perfume) on the bride and groom during malam berbedak (night of powdering). So the homeowner saw this and was even happier to have invited the tourists to his home,” he said.

Zaini said currently there are 15 families offering rooms and the numbers are slowly increasing as families realise that aside from earning a profitable income of around $60 rent per night, it is also a very easy task.

“In the end, the homeowners simply have to serve biscuits and tea in the mornings, which is something that’s very doable. In doing so, Bruneians can get to understand the culture of the guests while the tourists get insight into Bruneian culture,” he said.

He said he knows of one homeowner who once offered a room to a Malaysian guest and was reciprocated when he traveled there as the Malaysian in turn offered his home as a homestay.

The Sungai Bunga MPK’s Seri Tanjung Homestay received the ASEAN Homestay Award in January at the 35th ASEAN Tourism Forum in Manila.

The Brunei Times