Bruneians say they spend anywhere from $100 to $500 in a single day each trip they make into neighbouring Miri, a Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) survey has indicated.

While residents from the abutting Belait District were found to hop over the border more, and thus make up the lion’s share of total Bruneian expenditure in Miri, it was the Brunei-Muara residents who spent the most on average on their day trips there.

The survey findings, comprising 450 respondents, was shared this morning by UBD lecturer Dr Shirley Chin Wei Lee during her talk at the International Tourism Conference and Exhibition.

“The average spending per trip, per day differs district to district. Most of the Belait and Tutong respondents say they spend around $100 to $300 per day. Meanwhile, respondents from Brunei-Muara stated they spend $300 to $500 per day. However, Belait residents make more frequent trips due [to their proximity] to Miri,” she said.

“Some variations across districts were observed in total expenditures and reasons for shopping. So, although Belait residents only account for 16 per cent of total Brunei population, they make up the most total expenditure in Sarawak.”

Dr Chin also noted that official statistics show that the frequency of locals leaving the country to neighbouring Sarawak and Sabah – via Sg Tujoh, Kuala Lurah and the Serasa Ferry Terminal – increases over the weekends and public holidays. The end of year holidays also sees more traffic from Brunei into Eastern Malaysian states.

The survey pinpointed four main reasons why Bruneians make the trip into bordering Malaysian cities such as Miri: price benefits, favorable exchange rates, choice availability and entertainment variety.

Citing a CSPS (Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies) report, Dr Chin shared that household goods are indeed cheaper in neighbouring Malaysian states such as Miri and Limbang. “For example sugar per [1kg] pack costs $2.26 in Miri and over $3 in Brunei… A large cafe latte from Coffee Bean in Miri costs $5 and $5.80 in Brunei.”

“Most Bruneians make the trip across the border into Miri not just for shopping, but for entertainment too, as well as visiting friends and family.”

However, there have also been instances when Bruneians would shy away from visiting Miri, Dr Chin noted. “Slowest traffic was recorded in November 2015 when Malaysian traffic police set up roadblocks to impose fines on traffic offenders from Brunei.”

There was also a dip in Bruneians making trips across the border when the Malaysian government first introduced GST (government service tax) in the second quarter of 2015.

In 2016, official data recorded nearly 2.5 million local departures through the Sungai Tujoh, Kuala Lurah and Serasa Ferry Terminal immigration posts.

“It is hoped that this study will provide preliminary and empirically based insight into the issue and act as a baseline for more studies,” Dr Chin said.