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Brunei makes strides in the quest for global ecotourism prominence

Brunei Darussalam is ramping up efforts to transform its tourism landscape to an internationally recognised ecotourism destination and focusing on offering travellers with immersive experiences in the country’s pristine nature, rich culture and adventure activities.

This was said by Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Abdul Manaf bin Metussin yesterday in his keynote address at the round table discussion, ‘Tourism Pillar Promoting Sustainable Tourism in BIMP-EAGA Challenges and Opportunities’.

His keynote address was read by Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism Haji Mohd Yusree bin Haji Junaidi.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Abdul Manaf said, “Tourism can be promoted by enhancing and strengthening its sustainable tourism practices. Some of the initiatives include attracting more ecotourists and sustainable travellers; developing strong community support for low carbon footprint lifestyles and empowering locals for community-based tourism; and attaining ratings and certifications for efforts in sustainable tourism practices in the industry.”

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Abdul Manaf also said, “One key focus area is regenerative tourism which is a sustainable way of travelling and discovering new places. This concept allows visitors to be able to ‘give back to nature and local community’. For example, the Eco Ponies Garden is known for its sustainable farming practices with a community garden growing varieties of herbs; and one of the few that offers a farm-to-table experience.”

Pekan Bangar in Temburong District. PHOTO: MOHAMAD HAZIQ BIN EMRAN
Participants during the roundtable. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN
Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism Haji Mohd Yusree bin Haji Junaidi speaks at the event. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

The Tourism Development Department recently organised an exhibition at the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery in conjunction with World Tourism Day 2023, which aligned with this year’s theme ‘Tourism and Sustainable Investments’. The Green Horizons exhibition promoted sustainable initiatives such as embracing a low-waste lifestyle and adopting eco-friendly practices.

“To harness the potential economic benefits of sustainable tourism, it is imperative for us to continue engaging in dialogue and collaboration, build networks and partnerships and create sharing and learning platforms especially to tackle the impending challenges affecting the tourism industry,” said Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Abdul Manaf. On tourist arrivals to the country, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Abdul Manaf said the tourism industry in the Sultanate has shown an increasing trend. Tourist arrivals during pre-COVID19 grew at 15 per cent annually, from 218,809 tourists in 2016, to 333,244 tourists in 2019.

Alhamdulillah, 2019 recorded the highest number of tourists arrivals. However, the unprecedented pandemic put a halt to the tourism industry and tourist arrival plummeted.

Subsequently, with the ease of border restrictions in 2022, a significant recovery was observed, as the number of arrivals increased by 907.6 per cent, from 3,543 in 2021 to 35,701,” said the minister.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Abdul Manaf also said Brunei, Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) and Indonesia (Kalimantan) and Philippines are important strategic partners and have enormous potential for cooperation.

“All BIMP countries are actively engaged in the ongoing renovation and enhancement of their tourism facilities, primarily focusing on product development, especially at community-based ecotourism sites. Numerous marketing campaigns are also in progress to bolster tourism activities at these community-based ecotourism (CBET) sites. Notably, the Sister Village programme will further enhance collaboration and joint initiatives among the participating villages, including on sustainable tourism and promotional activities. However, it is crucial to get the mechanism right for us to reap the full benefit,” added the minister.

At the roundtable discussion, officers comprising tourism players from Brunei Darussalam-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) region, diplomats and members of the private sector highlighted that connectivity and collaboration are crucial to open up business and investment opportunities. Officers also highlighted infrastructure development such as the proposed international airport in Lahad Datu, Sabah to acquire potentials for new market.

Sustainable tourism promotion should also be embraced by both government and private sectors. This includes putting sustainable development goal (SDG) element in their establishment in hotels and resorts like using solar power, e-vehicles to transport tourists and recycle waste management. – Azlan Othman

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