HERE are two ways of improving the flow of tourists and foreign direct investments (FDIs) to Brunei:
1) Grant visas on arrival to tourists, professionals and investors — particularly those from the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of India. There are 20 million Indians wealthy enough who can afford to travel annually by plane and cruise liners, while the number of affluent people from China is 16 million out of a population of over 1.33 billion.
If 0.1 per cent of this number travels to Brunei on an annual basis, that would increase our tourism numbers by about 30,000-36,000 per month. This would greatly improve the business climate — especially the restaurant and hotel trade — and potential investors would also start taking an interest in Brunei.
Dubai granted visas to Chinese tourists, with the aim of boosting the annual number of Chinese visitors from 243,000 to 1.2 million. They were also savvy enough to make the visas on arrival ‘free’ if the tourists arrived by Emirates, Dubai’s national carrier.
2) Develop a 24-hour business culture. When a late friend of mine started a 24-hour restaurant 15 years ago, he said that he was hoping to start a new trend. A prominent hotel soon followed suit, and the concept was also taken up by another restaurant situated at the Gadong riverside. To this day, these are the only 24-hour businesses in Brunei, which is hardly a ‘trend’, and my friend would have been disappointed to see that the business fad that he hoped to spark was so slow in catching on. We should have petrol stations and fast-food chains open 24 hours a day, or maybe even invite all-day franchises (such as the 7-Eleven) to set up business here. The newly-refurbished market in Gadong could perhaps have some food stalls open from 10pm to 8am, where customers can grab a simple meal of ‘nasi lemak’, ‘nasi katok’, ‘cucur pisang’ and ‘cucur udang’.
Developing the visa on arrival and the 24-hour business culture would also push Brunei several levels up the ‘ease of doing business’ rankings, because a 24-hour business culture appeals to most businessmen and investors.
– AT (Anak Tempatan)