Sarawak sees tourist arrivals from Brunei nosedive in H1

National 1 minute, 43 seconds

BELAIT

VISITS by Brunei residents to Sarawak for the first half of 2016 dropped to a six-year low of 624,978, according to recently released statistics from the Immigration Department of Sarawak.

The six-month figure is about a quarter of a million smaller than the same period last year.

This is also the second consecutive year of a downturn in arrivals from Brunei that have been recorded by Sarawak since the dizzying heights of 2014 when the all-time high of 1.9 million border crossings to Sarawak was recorded.

January saw just 74,127 arrivals, down more than 50 per cent from the same month last year. The highest recorded figure this year was 133,082 in March.

Despite the drop, Brunei managed to hold on to a 60 per cent share of all international arrivals in Sarawak, down three per cent from 2015.

The downturn in visitor arrivals means that the border extension until midnight at Sarawak and Brunei control posts in September last year — although welcomed by visitors who praised the increased flexibility — has yet to directly lead to more arrivals.

Director of Tourism Malaysia in Brunei Zurina Abd Samad previously said arrivals from Brunei to Sarawak this year are not expected to match the highs of 2013 and 2014, as there is less spending power due to the economic downturn from low oil and gas prices.

“Although Malaysia continues to be a popular destination for Brunei families, they may not cross or make trips across the border as often as they used to if they are on tighter budget,” she said in an interview earlier this year.

The favourable exchange rate — which hit three Malaysian ringgit for every Brunei dollar in August last year and has continued to stay within this range since — is also expected to keep arrivals to at least over the one million mark.

Visitors from Brunei to Sarawak has increased tenfold over the past two decades. In 1992 there were 207,644 arrivals, and the million mark was first hit exactly 10 years later.

The Malaysian Tourism Board in Brunei and the Sarawak Tourism Board could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The Brunei Times