‘Staycations’ a boost to local tourism says CSPS

Azlan Othman

Domestic tourism has benefitted from government restrictions of cross-border movement as more people spend locally, according to the Brunei Economic Update, published by the Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS).

The report said that with limited cross-border movement, more people are spending locally, prompted by innovative services such as re-pricing of hotel rooms and re-branding of tourist attractions to appeal more to locals to encourage locals to sign up for ‘staycations’. New dine-in experiences were also achieved by re-purposing airport restaurants.

The report indicated hotel occupancy rate increased from April 2020 to December 2020, including a 49-per-cent surge for the December holiday period. It also said that retail sales have also seen a marked increase, particularly department stores and supermarkets, as well as in terms of sales of computer, telecommunications equipment and electrical goods.

At the same time, the restaurant sub-sector registered positive growth following a decline in the previous two quarters.

The CSPS report said borders have remained closed to leisure and social visits since March last year, but have been cautiously reopened for selected groups such as returning citizens and essential travellers.

Pekan Bangar in Temburong District. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

The air transport sub-sector improved slightly in the fourth quarter of 2020, but remains deeply depressed. As of mid-April, the total number of aircraft landings at the Brunei International Airport was 90 per cent lower than the same period a year ago. The recovery in international travel and tourism remains highly uncertain in the near term.

Border re-opening will require successful containment of COVID-19 both domestically and abroad, and after a thorough review of border policies, quarantine requirements, testing, contact tracing and vaccination.

Consumer sentiment will likely be shaky until herd immunity is achieved, that is, when a sufficient percentage of the population has become immune to COVID-19. On the nation’s economic outlook, the CSPS said an improved growth outlook is projected for 2021, reflecting broad-based growth across sectors as external demand and domestic activities strengthen.

Crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) production is expected to increase modestly, while demand for downstream products should pick up as the global economy recovers.

Most services sub-sectors are expected to grow moderately, however, a full recovery in travel and tourism is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Large-scale foreign direct investments (FDI) projects, particularly the commencement of fertiliser production and the construction of the Phase II of an oil refinery and petrochemical complex, are anticipated to further support economic activities.

The key downside risks to this outlook include another sustained wave of the pandemic, possibly due to new variants or vaccine hesitancy, weaker-than-expected global growth and commodity prices, and unanticipated domestic oil and gas supply disruptions.