Brunei visitors to Sarawak drop

National 1 minute, 55 seconds

BELAIT

VISITORS from Brunei to Sarawak dropped by 369,223 last year, resulting to a four-year low of 1.585 million visitors, according to recently released statistics from the Immigration Department of Sarawak.

A weakened Malaysian ringgit reaching $3 for every Bruneian dollar in August 2015 – and a border extension until midnight at control posts a month later – were not enough to offset tightened wallets from the downturn in oil and gas prices, said the Director of Tourism Malaysia in Brunei Zurina Abd Samad.

Last year's peak was in March with 172,144 crossing the border, followed by 156,375 in January and 155,134 in February.

Last year’ slowest traffic of 92,642 came in November, the month after the Royal Malaysia Police set up roadblocks in Miri and Limbang to collect outstanding traffic summons.

Brunei residents accounted for 74 per cent of the drop of total foreign visitors to Sarawak last year, which stood at 2,995,855.

However, Brunei visitors continued to make up the majority of all foreign arrivals to Sarawak at 63 per cent.

Sabah, meanwhile managed to dodge the sharp drop in visitors, recording 84,977 arrivals from Brunei last year, just 0.3 per cent less compared to 2014, according to the Sabah Tourism Board.

Zurina said while the border extension has been received positively by offering travellers more flexibility and potentially more spending, the move does not directly improve tourism numbers.

“We classify tourists as those staying at least a night. With the extension, it has its pros and cons. People are more likely to spend more (time and money), but some will be less likely to stay over for a night because they can cross back until midnight,” she said.

Malaysia tallies its visitors by totalling tourists along with those making day trips, who are classified as excursionists.

Zurina added the global economic slowdown has also affected Malaysia, with a tightened budget for tourism promotion last year.

“Even this year things will be tight (promotional wise). However a plus for Malaysia's tourism is that spending did not drop by much,” she said.

Malaysia as a whole, recorded a drop of 6.6 per cent last year in Brunei tourists. Total tourists numbered at 25 million last year, down from 27 million a year prior.

Tourism Malaysia has ambitious targets for 2016, as they look to draw 30.5 million tourists and who are expected to spend RM103 billion, up from RM69 billion last year.

The Brunei Times