| Lyna Mohamad |
PAN Bright Travel Service on January 13 inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ming Garden Hotel of Kota Kinabalu to stimulate more tourist arrivals from Brunei Darussalam into the Sabah capital.
The ‘Agreement of Marketing Initiatives’, signed in conjunction with the Malaysia National Sales Campaign 2019 (Malaysia Mega Sales Carnival and Malaysia Year End Sale) in Kota Kinabalu, is the first official collaboration between a Bruneian travel agent and a hotel in Kota Kinabalu.
General Manager Johnnie Cheong signed on behalf of Pan Bright Travel Service while Ming Garden Hotel & Residences General Manager Patrick Lau signed on behalf of the hotel.
Director of Tourism Malaysia Brunei Darussalam (TM Brunei) Haji Ibrahim Seddiqi bin Talib and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) General Manager Suzaini Datuk Sabdin Ghani witnessed the signing.
“Tourist arrivals from Brunei to Malaysia have steadily increased in the past three years from 1.13 million arrivals in 2015 to 1.6 million in 2017,” said Lau. “Shopping in Malaysia has always been the number one choice for Bruneian tourists, especially neighbouring cities like Kota Kinabalu, with a recent study by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) noting that Malaysia’s pull factors of price benefits, favourable exchange rates, and availability and variety of attractions.”
Ming Garden Hotel & Residences, for the past seven years, has been a major player in the tourism industry and is one of the top venues for accommodation, dining, and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) events in Kota Kinabalu, he added.
“The hotel has actively supported Tourism Malaysia Brunei to stimulate the increase of Bruneian tourist arrivals into Kota Kinabalu by extending special room rates, packages and offering personalised hospitality,” he added. “Our sincerity (in attracting more visitors from Brunei) was shown by our participation in Pan Bright Travel Services’ travel fair in 2018 and 2017, where we offered great deals to Bruneians and actively promoted Sabah as an international travel destination.”
Suzaini Datuk Sabdin Ghani expressed gratitude for the signing of the agreement.
“Bruneians have always been close to our hearts and we are part of the island of Borneo,” she said. “In the several years leading up to 2016, the number of visitors from Brunei has grown steadily, however from 2017 we have seen a slight decrease in travellers due to the slowing economy and issues of transportation.”
She expects things to pick up this year, especially with the completion of the Temburong Bridge in the third quarter of the year and the upcoming launch of AirAsia’s direct daily flights from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu.
Haji Ibrahim Seddiqi said that Sabah – in particular Kota Kinabalu – is a favourite shopping haven among Bruneians and is also their preferred destination for sports activities such as marathons and golf.
“The rapid growth of tourism products and shopping malls in Sabah has mounted the interest of Bruneian tourists,” he said. “In the months up to October in 2018, a total of 42,515 tourist arrivals from Brunei were recorded. Though this is a decrease compared to the same period in 2017, Sabah is still a main destination for Bruneian tourists, and we are confident that with this new cooperation (between Pan Bright and Ming Garden) and the additional daily flights from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kota Kinabalu by AirAsia beginning January 18, 2019, tourist arrivals from Brunei into Kota Kinabalu can be sustained for years to come.”
Johnnie Cheong said that the travel agency has worked with Ming Garden Hotel for several years and established close ties.
“Generally Kota Kinabalu is a very popular destination for Bruneians, hence we signed this MoU today. We try to make it easier for Bruneians (when they visit the city). We are looking at a minimum of 500 packages to start off with and we will see how it goes from there,” he added.
Pan Bright Travel is also at the same time promoting Brunei inbound tourism to Sabah as well as tourists coming into Brunei from either Sabah or Sarawak travelling directly into the country.
The travel agency has been providing quality and cost-effective travel services to their clients in Brunei Darussalam for the past three decades. It was notably awarded ‘Best Foreign Tour Operator (Southeast Asia)’ in the Brunei Darussalam category during the 20th Malaysia Tourism Awards in 2017.