Homestay businesses thrive on community support

|     Hakim Hayat     |

THE homestay programme is a lucrative business only when there is full support from the community, Secretary of the Kampong Sungai Bunga Village Consultative Council (MPK) Zaini bin Muhammad Salleh said.

He made this statement during an interview with the Bulletin.

Zaini is one of the pioneers of the homestay programme, offered by the MPK Kampong Sungai Bunga.

The programme is part of an initiative under the One Village, One Product initiative introduced by the government to help improve socio-economic activities in village communities.

What initially started off with a homestay service provided by a family in Kampong Sungai Bunga in the iconic Kampong Ayer at the end of 2013 has today expanded into a village-wide initiative, with tourists being offered the opportunity to experience the Bruneian way of life whose roots can be traced back to the Brunei River.

Secretary of the MPK Kampong Sungai Bunga Zaini bin Muhammad Salleh and his wife. – HAKIM HAYAT

Since its inception, the homestay received two awards from the ASEAN Tourism Standard Awards.

In 2016, the programme gained recognition under the Best Homestay category, while this year, it received accolades in the ASEAN Community Based Tourism Standard Award, while its Seri Tanjung Homestay won the ASEAN Homestay Standard Award.

Zaini said that when the initiative was realised in 2013, his house was used in the programme. Eventual support and assistance from government agencies enabled the MPK to further develop the project, with 12 homes with the capacity of accommodating 45 visitors added to the homestay programme.

Zaini pointed out that since then, their package offering has expanded beyond just the homestay, and they now actively receive international and domestic visitors who stay for a few nights at the homestay and go on daytrips to get an authentic Bruneian cultural experience, sampling the country’s culinary, handicraft, traditional arts, sports and other attractions.

Popular activities for guests include hands-on preparation of Brunei-Malay delicacies, experiencing prawn cracker production – which is one of the village’s main products – as well as kayaking along the Brunei River.

There are nine houses with rooms offered in the packages, allowing visitors to stay with friendly host families who will take them around the village to experience their unique everyday way of life. A village day-trip package is also available, offering visitors demonstrations of local traditional food being prepared, such as prawn and fish crackers, pais daging and ambuyat.

“The cohesion and solidarity among villagers in collectively providing services allowed us to thrive and receive good reviews and recommendations,” he added. “Our homestay programme helped the community a lot, not only those who offer their homes to tourists, but also those who do traditional performances and cooking demonstrations.”

With a well-organised promotion strategy, the homestay programme has the potential to become a prime tourist destination choice, Zaini said, adding that he is thankful for the support given by the Tourism Development Department and relevant government agencies in ensuring that that they can offer quality services.

“Going forward, we intend to expand the programme to more villagers and also diversify their products to offer more attractive packages,” he said. “All the stakeholders in the community who join the business will get a share of the profits, from water taxi drivers to fishermen catching shrimps in the river.”