Brunei recorded an 18.3 per cent increase in tourist arrivals, exceeding the projected 10 per cent increase set for last year, said Tourism Development Department in a statement yesterday.

A total of 258,955 visitors arrived through Brunei International Airport in 2017, an increase from 218,809 tourists in 2016. The 2017 statistics, however, did not include a report on the amount of tourism receipts.

Brunei’s top five markets for visitor arrivals for the last two years remain unchanged, with Malaysia keeping its position as the top market. China placed second with 52,391 visitors, followed by Philippines (23,157 tourists), Indonesia (22,420 tourists) and Singapore (14,919 tourists).

The top five countries contributed 66.8 per cent (172,917 tourists) of tourist arrivals into the country.

South Korea has also been named one of the fastest growing markets, with an increase of 145.1 per cent (year-on-year) from 3,551 arrivals in 2016 to 8,705 arrivals last year.

In addition to arrivals by air, there was a total of 4,057,029 entries into Brunei via land and sea.

There was an increase in average hotel occupancy rate for 2017, at 41.2 per cent compared to 39.3 per cent in 2016.

The department added that the growth in tourist arrivals has had a positive impact on the country’s tourism industry.

The growth can be attributed to several factors: consistent high demand from the main market segments; the introduction and improvement of several tourism products; and the introduction of new flight services from South Korea and China.

Travel facilitation has also improved, with the introduction of visas on arrival and multiple-entry visas for China and Taiwan nationals.

The ASEAN region remained the largest visitor market in 2017, with a 50.3 per cent share (130,208 tourists).

A total of 70,193 tourists came from the Far East market, representing a 27.1 per cent share, while the long haul market — arrivals from Europe and Middle East — represented a 10.9 per cent share (28,192 tourists).

The Australia and New Zealand markets both contributed a 3.9 per cent market share (9,994 tourists).

In terms of accommodation, in 2017 Brunei offered a total of 87 establishments ranging from luxury resorts to business hotels and homestays.

This is equivalent to a total of 4,455 rooms and 6,226 beds. In 2016, there were 83 establishments recorded with 4,311 rooms and 6,044 beds.

Fifty two of the 87 establishments were hotels, resorts and apartments. The rest were homestays (16), guest houses and rest houses (16) as well as government guest houses (3).

International tourists stayed an average of 2.2 days in hotels, the figure remaining unchanged from last year.

However, there was an increase in the average hotel occupancy rate for 2017, which stood at 41.2 per cent compared to 39.3 per cent in 2016.

The total number of registered travel agents under the Tourism Development Department also increased to 65 in 2017 from 60 in 2016.

For the year 2018, the department is setting its target at 278,000 tourists arrival, equivalent to $141 million in tourism dollars.