| Azaraimy HH |
FROM outlets offering quality international and local brands providing an enhanced shopping experience to its growing range of facilities and travel technologies, the Brunei International Airport (BIA) is now more ready than ever to serve the growing expectations of today’s travellers.
The media was invited to tour and experience the newly enhanced airport facilities during a media day yesterday led by the Minister of Communications, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mustappa bin Haji Sirat.
On hand to accompany the minister during the half-day tour were Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications (MinCom), Dr Haji Supry bin Haji Awang Ladi and top officials.
Among the places toured by the media at the airport included shops selling local and international products, restaurants and cafes, travel agencies, postal and telecommunication services, ATMs and money exchange shops, car park facilities, taxi and public transport agencies as well as other amenities at the passengers and public areas.
The media representatives were also taken to view the ‘Commercially Important Person (CIP)’ area – a newly introduced service offering a VIP holding area (also available for public rental before aircraft boarding), ensuring optimum comfort and privacy for passengers who need it.
Filipino fast food franchise Jollibee has recently joined the ranks of international food outlets operating at the airport – such as KFC and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – as well as local eateries and fine dining outlets, adding to the increasing commercial draw of the airport among businesses in the country, and expanding holidaymakers’ and visitors’ dining options.
The number of ATM machines and range of retail products have also expanded significantly in comparison to what was available before the airport’s modernisation.
The words ‘connectivity’, ‘comfort’ and ‘convenience’ are synonymous with the modern airport, and the provision of seamless mobile communication services and ergonomic resting areas is imperative. The BIA has improved tremendously in this respect: free Wi-Fi, charging stations and comfortable seating arrangements are amenities modern travellers now expect from airports, and these are now available at the passenger area of BIA.
Not overlooking travellers’ religious needs, the airport also houses a beautifully designed surau – a mini monument unique to BIA which reflects Brunei’s strong Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy.
The minister indicated that there are still more commercial spaces available and expressed his optimism that there will be further commercial expansion at the airport.
The Minister of Communications added that ever since the refurbishment works, there had been a lot of upgrade works at the airport aimed at improving services provided and passenger experience, such as expansion of retail and dining areas and other various airport services.
“All this is aimed at making BIA one of the most attractive airports in the region,” the minister said.
He added that the bigger – and longer term – goal is to evolve the airport, within its existing capacity, into an aviation hub and attracting more airlines to operate here, citing the example of Lucky Air – a Yunnan-based airline which has already started flights to BIA.
“Other airlines have expressed their interest in operating in BIA. We need to understand that for an airline to operate their flights here, a substantial amount of investment is required. For example, one of the requirements is to invest in an aircraft, and this needs a significant amount of investment. There is also a need to promote Brunei as an attractive destination,” said the minister.
“These activities will in turn create a spinoff or economic multiplier effect to the local economy and create jobs,” the minister added, explaining the benefits of getting new airlines to operate at the airport. “Tourism and transportation is synonymous, one needs the other and one benefits the other. It is thus the aim to make BIA a significant attraction for foreign aviation businesses by enhancing its connectivity and reliability.”
He also highlighted that the current capacity for BIA has been increased, and it can now handle more than three million travellers per year. At present, it is handling roughly 1.5 million travellers, indicating that there is still a lot more capacity left to be fulfilled.
The minister also noted that the country is receiving more than 200,000 tourists a year which means the bulk of travellers making up the 1.5 million passengers are Bruneians.
“This means there is still a lot to be improved, including an effort to make the country more attractive as a tourist destination and to create a convenient and an efficient public transportation system here,” said the minister, who also hit home the importance of “creating an attractive value proposition for tourists to travel to the country, for example, making the cost of travelling to Brunei cheaper or competitive in comparison to travel to other countries”.
The minister also told the Bulletin that the government has made major efforts in improving the country’s public transportation, saying that “the basis for the development of a dynamic society rests on the efficiency of the country’s public transportation system”.
An example of improvements that have been made is the taxi system. Additionally, according to the minister, it is hoped that soon there will be an introduction of a new bus system – part of a multi-modal transport system dubbed the Brunei Rapid Traffic System – which will connect various important destinations in the country such as hotels, embassies, commercial centres, schools, jetties, and of course the BIA.
“It is our hope that the combination of an attractive airport and reliable public transport system will spark economic activity in related areas such as logistics and tourism. The transport sector is an important sector, a catalyst in creating more economic activity and opportunities,” the minister said.
Towards the end of the tour, an official launching ceremony for a mobile app called ‘iFlyBrunei Version 2.0’ was held. The app provides information on flight schedules, services available at the airport, as well as information for passengers such as safety regulations, import duties, public transportation services, and lodging or accommodation in Brunei.