Brunei gaining popularity among Muslim travellers

|    Danial Norjidi    |

A RECENT research survey ranked Brunei Darussalam as the 11th best destination for Muslim travellers among Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries.

The survey – the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) for 2018 – sees the Sultanate climb two places this year, after having been ranked 13th last year and 12th in 2016. It shares the same position as Kuwait this year.

As with last year, Brunei retained a full score (100) in safety and culture as well as prayer space access, and gained a score of 90 in dining options in the latest Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) for 2018, which grades 130 destinations globally.

The country also scored strongly in terms of ease of communications with a 78.4 score and visa requirements (73), but the country was adjudged to be considerably lacking in terms of digital presence and outreach, scoring 23.6 and 26.3 respectively in these areas.

For the eighth consecutive year, Malaysia tops the index and managed to maintain its leadership as one of the best destinations for Muslim travellers by scoring strongly in the various criteria covered in the index.

Mastercard and CrescentRating have said that the research confirms that the Muslim travel market is set to continue its fast-paced growth and well on course to reaching a worth of USD220 billion in 2020. It is expected to grow a further USD80 billion to hit USD300 billion by 2026.

In 2017, there were an estimated 131 million Muslim visitor arrivals globally, up from 121 million in 2016. This is forecast to grow to 156 million visitors by 2020, representing 10 per cent of the travel segment.

The leading region in the world for attracting Muslim visitors is Asia, followed by Europe.

Safdar Khan, the Mastercard Division President for Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei said, “Many already successful destinations around the world are looking to diversify their visitor base to maintain tourist growth rates in today’s increasingly competitive travel market.

“The fast growing Muslim travel segment is an opportunity in plain sight but in order to benefit from it, it is crucial to understand the needs and preferences of Muslim travellers and how to adapt and tailor products and services for them.”

Mastercard and CrescentRating estimate that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region will welcome over 18 million Muslim visitor arrivals by 2020, representing close to 15 per cent of the visitor arrivals to the region.

Meanwhile, recent statistics shared by the Tourism Development Department of the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism in a press statement show that there has been an 18 per cent increase in the number of tourist arrivals in Brunei Darussalam through Brunei International Airport (BIA).

Specifically, 258,955 tourists visited the country through BIA last year, registering an increase compared to 218,809 arrivals in 2016.

According to the press statement, which was issued on April 6, this achievement has exceeded the 10 per cent growth target projected for last year, recording the highest number of international tourist arrivals after 2011.

They noted that over the last three years, tourist arrival growth has shown an upward trend, contributing to the development of the country’s tourism industry with 2017 ending on a strong note on the back of a 18.3 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) growth.

The statement adds that the growth is mainly attributed to the consistently high travel demand from the main market areas since January 2017; the introduction and enhancement of several tourism products; continuous increase in air connectivity by Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) and Lucky Air with the introduction of new services from South Korea and China; and improved travel facilitation such as visa on arrival and multiple entry visa for the nationalities of China and Taiwan.

In addition, tourist arrivals from the main source markets have shown significant improvement from 2016 with the Far East market contributing the highest y-o-y growth of 34 per cent, followed by the Long Haul market (16 per cent), Asean market (11.8 per cent) and Australia and New Zealand markets (both 5.8 per cent).

Another contributing factor to the solid performance in 2017 was a slew of events held in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee Celebration of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s Accession to the Throne on October 5, 2017.

Malaysia was the top contributor to tourist arrivals in 2016 due to its easy air accessibility and proximity with a 23.2 per cent share (24.8 per cent in 2016), followed by China at 20.2 per cent (18.7 per cent in 2016); Philippines at 8.9 per cent (7.8 per cent in 2016); Indonesia at 8.7 per cent (9.5 per cent in 2016); and Singapore at 5.8 per cent (6.6 per cent in 2016).

In total, the top five countries have contributed the majority portion of international tourist arrivals into the country for 2017 at 66.8 per cent.

According to the department, the main purpose of visiting Brunei Darussalam in 2017 was leisure and holiday with a share of 44.2 per cent (42.8 per cent in 2016). About 13.6 per cent travelled for business purposes (17.1 per cent in 2016), followed by visiting friends and relatives (VFR) at 10.3 per cent (11.6 per cent in 2016), in transit at 8.9 per cent (10.7 per cent in 2016); government purposes at 2.5 per cent (2.9 per cent in 2016), exhibitions at 0.6 per cent (0.6 per cent in 2016), others at 9.9 per cent (11.0 per cent in 2016), and not specified at 10 per cent (3.3 per cent in 2016).

The main contributors to the leisure and holiday market were China and Malaysia with a share of 39.2 per cent and 15.7 per cent respectively.

In addition to the total tourist arrivals by air, a total of 4,057,029 international visitor arrivals were also recorded at other Immigration control posts in 2017.