Support needed to enhance Kg Ayer homestay experience

National 2 minutes, 24 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

HOMESTAYS in Kampong Ayer have proved to be a popular draw for tourists seeking the “authentic” Bruneian experience, but operators say the water village has potential to develop even more tourism products if they can get the relevant support from the authorities.

Dk Kemariah Pg Hj Duraman, owner of Kunyit 7 Lodge at Kg Bakut Berumput, quit her day job at a multinational last year to turn her late grandfather’s home into a cheerful bed-and-breakfast in the heart of the water village.

Since opening in May 2015, Kunyit 7 receives an average of 50 lodgers per month and has received rave reviews on travel sites TripAdvisor and Airbnb.

“Real travellers love the ambiance of Kg Ayer. This is the real Bruneian experience,” she said.

Dk Kemariah said when tourists come to Kg Ayer just for the day, they often don’t know where to go or what to do.

“There is the tourism gallery but that’s it. We could start our own heritage walks but we need the regulators to fix the walkways and put up signboard indicating places of interest. An information centre would also be useful.”

She said she plans to start her own heritage walks soon, so travellers and locals alike can discover the real history and heritage of the Water Village.

“I always take my own guests on a free one-hour walking tour of the water village. But there are 36km of walkways around Kg Ayer, there is still so much to be explored.”

Head of Kg Lorong Sikuna Hj Ahmad Bujang said such initiatives could help promote tourism as a viable source of employment among the community.

“There aren’t many people willing to operate homestays at the moment, but look at how popular they are?” he said.

Hj Ahmad also operates a bed-and-breakfast out of his home, which showcases several Bruneian antiques and handicrafts. He has hosted some world-famous guests, including Indonesian President Joko Widodo and former prime minister of Timor Leste Xanana Gusmao.

The village head said more cooperation is needed between homestay operators and other vendors such as water taxi drivers, tour companies and guides to create a more holistic system.

“Right now, we are just operating for our own benefit. We need to work with each other to help provide income and also give tourists a friendly and welcoming experience.”

In neighboring Mukim Kota Batu, two more villages are also keen to promote their homestay programmes.

Pg Hj Abd Rahman Pg Hj Zainal, acting head of Kampung Sungai Bunga, said six houses are currently operating as homestays.

This is one option for tourists who want to experience Brunei’s village lifestyle and, at the same time, it will also improve the village’s economy, he said.

Nearby Kampung Sungai Matan has also been successful in promoting several of its tourism projects including a homestay programme, river cruise and annual festival.

The Brunei Times