The increased emphasis by the government on tourism as an economic stimulus has prompted several stakeholders to do their part to ensure the industry continues to thrive.

“Based on statistics shown recently, there has been an improvement in the number of arrivals into Brunei… and i think our government is working hard to improve the industry,” Dk Dr Noor Hasharina Pg Hj Hassan, Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s deputy director of the Institute of Asian Studies said.

From April to June 2017, the Brunei International Airport recorded over 65,000 arrivals, marking an increase of 25 per cent from the same quarter in 2016.

This is good news, she told The Scoop, noting that tourism development plays a more important role than just a means for economic diversification.

“I think eco-tourism and cultural heritage are unique in Brunei. We have a lot of tropical rainforest, flora and fauna. And if we look at our culture and heritage, our Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) system, our way of life… it is unique. This is why i think tourism is needed not just for economic development but also as a means to preserve our culture and maintain our environment.”

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Data from the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism indicate that holiday and leisure are the main reasons for tourist arrivals into Brunei, with China and Malaysia being the major markets.

The Sungai Kedayan Eco-Corridor is flanked by major Brunei landmarks, including the SOAS Mosque pictured here in the background. Photo: Rudolf Portillo

The ministry has also recently wrapped up its inaugural month-long initiative to promote Brunei as a holiday destination — Brunei December Festival. The initiative was hoped to boost spending locally during the end-of-year school holidays and entice more holidaymakers within the region to visit the sultanate.

According to Dk Dr Noor Hasharina, who is also the head of the Borneo Studies Network Secretariat Office (BSN), this improvement and emphasis on tourism has encouraged UBD to host its first international conference on tourism.

Dubbed the International Tourism Conference and Exhibition 2018 and co-organised with BSN, the conference will discuss relevant topics such as identity and heritage conservation as well as lessons on tourism planning and development. The conference carries the theme “ Tourism and Heritage: The Asean and Borneo Context”.

“All the [topics] that we will discuss at the conference will allow for those in the service industry to share best practices and also listen to what other countries are doing. It’s a sharing platform.”

The two-day conference will begin on January 16 and will see a keynote address given by Professor Victor T King from UBD’s Institute of Asian Studies.