BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – With China now ranked the second biggest market for tourist arrivals into Brunei, local tour guides are making efforts to step up their Chinese language skills. 

As part of an ASEAN-wide project, 40 participants — mostly of Chinese descent — are undergoing a three-day training course organised by the ASEAN-China Centre (ACC) in collaboration with China’s top ranking tourism universities.

Brunei is the first ASEAN country to kick off the project, which aims to cater to the growing Chinese market for travel to Southeast Asia. 

With over 52,000 Chinese visitors to the sultanate in 2017 — a jump of 26 percent from 2016 figures — the market is poised for rapid expansion with Royal Brunei Airlines announcing the addition of several new direct routes to major cities in mainland China. 

However this is only a small fraction of the Chinese tourism market in ASEAN: approximately 28 million visited ASEAN countries in 2017.

Fireworks over Kampong Ayer during the opening of the RIPAS bridge in October 2017. Photo: Infofoto

Kong Roatlomang, the ACC’s director of Education, Culture and Tourism, said the robust development of ASEAN-China tourism means there is greater demand for Chinese-speaking tour guides and tourism professionals.

According to Brunei’s Tourism Development Department, Chinese tourists prefer to stay in good accommodation, eat well, and spend more time exploring tourist sites.

Brunei is also an ideal destination as it is a relatively a short journey from China, and is safe, rich in culture and heritage, the department added.

However Kong said there are pros and cons to large numbers of Chinese holidaymakers. 

“Not all of them behave properly, but not all of them are bad. The thing is, we need to increase the awareness of ASEAN culture to Chinese tourists and citizens,” she said.

Because of negative incidents involving Chinese tourists in Cambodia and Thailand recently, Kong said many countries have resorted to issuing a “Dos & Don’ts”  list to Chinese visitors.

“This is important so that they know to respect local culture and norms, and that they cannot do anything that they want.

The [China] National Tourism Organisation is doing this as well [to educate the tourists],” she added, explaining that the organisation published a Guide to Civilised Tourism and Travel to try to prevent misbehaviour from Chinese citizens abroad.