Diving can drum up business for ecotourism: Poni Divers
DIVING has the potential to be the largest growth area for ecotourism in Brunei, claimed the managing director of a local dive centre.
Wong Thye Sing of Poni Divers said the sultanate’s diving industry has remained significantly underexposed to the international market despite being among the few countries in Southeast Asia with access to numerous dive sites.
“There are only a couple of other places in the region like that. We have something unique to offer, so there is definitely a lot of space for growth,” he explained.
Brunei is home to over 30 dive sites including four WWII shipwrecks and a few listed as must-dive sites in Jack Johnson’s Top Wreck Dives of the World book.
In addition to pristine natural reefs, the country was also one of the first to convert oil rigs into artificial reefs.
However, Wong pointed out that large-scale marketing is required in order to tap into the diving industry’s ecotourism potential.
“People usually say they don’t know much about Brunei or why they should come to Brunei. They don’t know there is diving in Brunei, but when we sell diving to them, they often come back year after year,” he said.
While Poni Divers previously spent up to $80,000 a year to promote the sultanate in international dive shows, he noted the high costs were likely to be unfeasible in the long-term.
“This is where it would be good to get some government support. When you see ads about Brunei, you see rainforests and mosques, but not a lot of pictures of diving,” he said, adding that promotional campaigns will help to boost dive tourism.
The dive centre brings in around 300 foreign divers to Brunei every year, but Wong believed the tourist numbers could be considerably higher with more marketing.
“Diving is a key attraction that is known to work very well in many other countries. We have that here, but we need a lot more promotion. Diving in Brunei is very much underexposed to the international market,” he said.
The Brunei Times