| Azlan Othman |
BRUNEI Darussalam scored the third fastest growth in tourist arrivals in Southeast Asia (SEA) last year, receiving some 259,000 international visitors.
The figure is an 18.3 per cent increase from the previous year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in its report published this week.
In 2016, the Sultanate received some 218,000 international visitors.
Vietnam scored the fastest growth in tourist arrivals with 29.1 per cent. Other countries in the region that saw a significant increase were Myanmar (18.4 per cent); Indonesia (16.9 per cent); and Timor Leste (12.5 per cent).
The rest of the SEA nations registered as the following: Cambodia (11.8 per cent), the Philippines (11.0 per cent), Thailand (8.6 per cent), Singapore (7.7 per cent), Malaysia (3.0 per cent) and Laos (1.8 per cent).
Thailand remained the region’s most popular destination with around 35.4 million international arrivals.
In total, SEA received 120.4 million visitors with the growth rate increasing to 8.6 per cent from 6.3 per cent in 2016 – the highest in Asia.
Southeast Asia enjoyed the highest growth of all Asian sub-regions, with an additional nine million international tourists in 2017.
Growth across destinations was fuelled by robust demand from Northeast Asian source markets. Visa exemptions and improved air connectivity also contributed to the positive results.
The UNWTO released the annual report on global travel and tourism where it looks at tourism trends around the world and, among other measures, tracks increases and decreases in tourism activities across countries and regions.
In general, 2017 was another record year for the travel industry with international tourist numbers increasing by 6.8 per cent globally, the highest rate since the 2009 global economic crisis and well above UNWTO’s long-term forecast of 3.8 per cent a year in 2010-2020.
In total, international tourism arrivals grew to just over 1.3 billion in 2017, the largest single-year percentage increase since 2009.
In April this year, the Tourism Development Department of the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) of Brunei Darussalam commented that this achievement has exceeded the 10 per cent growth target projected for last year, recording the highest number of international tourist arrivals after 2011.
The ministry added that over the last three years, tourist arrival growth has showed 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 growth was mainly attributed to the consistently high travel demand from the main market areas since January 2017 and the introduction and enhancement of several tourism products.
Also contributing to the growth were the 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 the improved travel facilitation such as visa on arrival and multiple entry visa for the nationalities of China and Taiwan, the ministry noted.
Furthermore, 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).
And this week, MPRT said the Sultanate recorded a surge in international tourist arrivals through the Brunei International Airport for the first quarter of 2018 (Q1 2018).
A total of 70,729 international tourists touched down in the country through the Brunei International Airport in Q1 2018, an increase of 4.1 per cent compared to the same period last year which registered 67,956 tourists.
According to the press statement from Tourism Development Department, the positive growth of 4.1 per cent can be attributed to the high impact of travel demand from the Far East market such as China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan which have all contributed significantly to the performance of Q1 2018.
While the Far East market continued to show persistent growth at 40.5 per cent, other markets like Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN have declined by 13.3 per cent, 8.4 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively.