Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Brunei Town

See the world again

Lyna Mohamad

After Brunei Darussalam lifted restrictions on non-essential travel on Friday, the tourism sector and related businesses look forward to catering to travellers to and from the nation after two years of restrictions and a closed border.

“The country’s hotels are always ready to welcome tourists and the re-opening will not only boost the tourism sector but also related industries,” said President of Brunei Association of Hotels (BAH) Mohd Iswandi bin Maaruf.

He said in 2019, the hospitality sector was moving forward after years of promoting Brunei Darussalam as a tourist destination.

“Everyone was working together,” he said, with industry players aggressively promoting the country as a tourism hotspot through roadshows as well as readying more toursim attractions. Air arrivals in 2019 totalled 333,244.

Then as the COVID-19 pandemic around the world unfolded in 2020, the numbers dropped to 62,326. “Year 2021 saw just 3,543 air arrivals,” he said. During the lull, he said the industry did capacity building of their hotel staff through customer service training provided by the Brunei Tourism Development Department, which sought to help the industry remain relevant.

On Friday, after the government announced a greenlist of 11 countries where foreign travellers are not required to apply for permission to visit, Mohd Iswandi said he hoped to see tourists return as restrictions are lifted. “Insya Allah we will see rooms and restaurants fill up,” he said.

OUTBOUND TRAVEL

“The re-opening of our air borders is great news to those who have been longing to travel in these past two years. We believe that it gives the public the reassurance that we are progressively moving forward in the new normal,” said Takaful Brunei Am Sdn Bhd’s (TBA) Chief Operations Officer, Barudin bin Haji Kudil.

As a COVID-19 travel insurance is mandatory for outbound travel, he said there has been an increase of enquiries on related travel protection.

He said TBA has products that meet PMO’s Guideline for Exiting Brunei Darussalam via Air Travel.

This includes minimum coverage of BND55,000, and also coverage on trip cancellation and curtailment abroad, he said. “This can reduce the concerns of travellers for unexpected expenses they might incur during their oversea trip,” said Barudin.

Meanwhile, General Manager of Straits Central Travel Agent Nur Khadijah binti Abdullah said the announcement was “great news”.

“Alhamdulillah. Finally a breath of fresh air after more than two years of closure. We are optimistic that business will resume towards the end of this year or in the first quarter of next year, as some people are still cautious about travelling.”

She expected the return to normal will be gradual, as there are added cost of mandatory travel insurance, COVID-19 tests and high airfares.

Another travel agent representative said while Bruneians will likely travel after two years of neglected wanderlust, there is not going to be a rush and some would likely wait and see before returning to make air travel plans.

“A major barrier will be the hike in air fare plus a limited number of flights. Hopefully airlines will start to increase flight frequency, especially our national carrier,” he added.

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