BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Chinese tourists now comprise the majority of arrivals into Brunei by air, unseating Malaysia as the largest source of visitors, new data from the Tourism Development Department has indicated. 

For the first quarter of 2018 (Q1 2018), Brunei recorded a 4.1 percent increase in total tourist arrivals.

A total of 70,729 visitors arrived through Brunei International Airport in the Q1 2018, an increase from 67,956 in the same period last year.

In addition to the total number of tourist arrivals by air, a total of 975,065 arrivals were also recorded from immigration control posts.

China topped the Brunei’s market for tourists’ arrivals with 18,530. Malaysia placed second with 15,208 arrivals, followed by Indonesia (7,413 arrivals), Philippines (5,139 arrivals) and Singapore (3,217 arrivals). 

Tourist arrivals via the international airport contributed to 70 per cent (49,507) of arrivals into Brunei.

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Air connectivity remains an integral part of the growth, especially with flights from China and South Korea, said the Tourism Development Department. 

A contributing factor to the growth in Q1 2018 was due to the Chinese tourists visiting the country on holiday for the Chinese New Year celebration in February, and international sports events held in Brunei in March such as The Richard Mille Brunei Championship and Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association’s (KLPGA) tournament, which gained wider exposure to the Far East market [China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan].

The number of visitors from Hong Kong has seen the biggest jump, increasing 98.1 percent from 307 to 733 arrivals over the same period last year.

While the Far East market continues to show strong growth at 40.5 per cent, other markets such as long haul sectors, Australia & New Zealand and ASEAN have declined by 13.3 per cent, 8.4 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively. The department however did not indicate reasons for the decline.

Long haul market such as Europe, Middle East and America represented a 9.2 percent share of visitors (6,546 arrivals). The Australia and New Zealand markets both contributed a four percent share of arrivals (2,842).

Most tourists to Brunei said the main purpose of their visit was for leisure and holiday (48.8 percent), followed by transit passenger (12.7 percent).

During Q1 2018, international tourists stayed an average of 2.4 days compared to 2.2 days over the same period last year, while the average hotel occupancy rate decreased to 35.9 per cent from 38 per cent.

In terms of accommodation, there were 88 establishments ranging from luxury resorts to homestays. The total number of rooms and beds available were 4,419 rooms and 6,320 beds.

The number of travel agents registered under the Tourism Development Department decreased from 67 to 59 in Q1 2018. The department said the decrease was due to “travel agents not renewing their licenses for the next term”.

A total of 258,955 tourists arrived through Brunei International Airport in 2017, compared to 218,809 tourists in 2016 — an increase of 18 percent. 

This year, the department targeting 278,000 tourists arrivals, equivalent to $141 million in tourism dollars.