December has always seen Bruneians travelling abroad be it by air or land, and with the Sultanate’s small population, their absence is usually felt with quieter roads and fewer visitors to malls and recreational spots.
The Bulletin spoke to members of the public about their opinions on what is lacking to attract the people to spend the holidays on home ground.
Khairul Erwan Shah, who visited a shopping centre to join in a blood donation drive, believes what the country needs to attract people to spend their year-end holidays locally is to enliven recreational spots with more activities, especially for families with young children.
He said it is understandable that travel restrictions due to COVID-19 affected many who love to travel, and some are releasing their tension after being cooped up, hence the long queues at borders, particularly those travelling to Sabah.
Having returned from a family holiday to Pontianak, Indonesia, he found Brunei to be lacking in comparison.
For example, during their stopover in Kuching, Sarawak, he said the waterfront was full of life, with stalls set up and a colourful dancing water fountain show every evening to the enjoyment of visitors particularly children.
Even along the journey, he said the recreational parks they passed through were filled with locals and tourists engaging in activities, especially at Tasik Biru (Blue Lake).
“There is also a beautiful hanging bridge for people to cross over the river and take scenic photos, as well as a river cruise at reasonable price offering a unique experience as there is a café on the boat for people to enjoy food and drinks while enjoying the view.
“Meanwhile, Pontianak, which most people think is just a small town, has a lot of big malls and there is always something interesting to see or visit like Trans Mart, which seems like just a box from the outside but has a rollercoaster ride and fun games inside.
“Here in Brunei, we are no less proud and grateful for the government initiatives to draw in locals, such as recreational parks with beautiful landscapes,” he said. “However, it could use more life. For example at Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas what we see regularly are people doing recreational activities, with family-oriented events during weekends or public holidays. Maybe there could be more events there especially in the evenings like a dancing water fountain show.
“As for river cruises, there is only one in the Sultanate and is quite a distance from the city and relatively unaffordable for lower income families. Having a river cruise operator on the Brunei River that can take local and foreign tourists for a ride around the famous Kampong Ayer at reasonable prices would perhaps help to draw attention,” he suggested.
He added, “As for theme parks, there is only the Jerudong Park Playground but it is also quite a distance.
“During the day it could be too hot. A mini indoor theme park that could accommodate all ages would be good.”
Another member of the public, Mas, shared the same sentiment.
While her family seldom travels abroad during the year-end holidays, after not travelling since the start of the pandemic restrictions, they decided to travel in the first week of December and spent the rest of the month in the Sultanate.
“Since we have beautiful recreational parks, it will be good to see places like Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas organise more activities that parents can enjoy with their children.” She believes one reason people opt to travel abroad is that certain products can be found cheaper elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Hajah Rosma who works in the private sector, said Brunei needs to have more activities for people to enjoy with their families.
“Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas is by far the most beautiful park because the centre is the magnificent Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque, and leading to the waterfront is the view of Kampong Ayer.
“It will be good to inject more life into the capital by introducing more activities for people to enjoy.”