BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei wants to expand investment with Korean companies, with an eye on building stronger cooperation in the tourism sector. 

The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) and the Embassy of Korea organised a seminar with four Korean companies on Wednesday, to explore investment opportunities in the tourism industry, as well as in ICT, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries.

Speaking at the opening of the seminar, MPRT minister Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong said tourism could be a significant driver of economic and social development for Brunei.

“Tourism stimulates economic growth by generating income, employment, investment and exports. It also generates valuable spin-off effects, including preservation of cultural heritage, improved infrastructure and local community facilities.” 

Korea is the fastest growing inbound tourism market for Brunei, with visitor traffic increasing by 145 percent between 2016 and 2017. 

With improved connectivity through the recent introduction of a direct flight between Bandar Seri Begawan and Seoul, MPRT hopes to drive visitor numbers even higher.

Getting Korean tourists to stay longer in Brunei also requires more collaboration between airlines, travel agents and hotels, the minister said. 

The seminar, which was closed to media, gathered key stakeholders in the tourism industry, as well as presentations from Brunei’s Tourism Development Department and the Brunei Economic Development Board.

In 2017, the trade volume between Brunei and South Korea stood at US$900 million, comprising mainly oil and gas export from the sultanate.

Dato Hj Ali said there is need to diversify the trade and investment relationship beyond the energy sector, highlighting the Brunei’s strategic location and recent reforms to the business environment.

Korean ambassador Yoon Hyum Bong added that her country’s government is keen to build more practical cooperation with Brunei, especially in economic diversification. 

A number of MOUs have been signed in the past year signaling more cooperation between the private sectors of both countries, with plans to develop a “marina” at Jerudong beach and a “Little Korea” at a shopping mall in the capital.

Last May, Korea’s Shinwoo Group also made the $5 million investment to set up the first duty free shop at Brunei International Airport.

There is also interest to position Brunei as a gateway into the global halal food market, pairing technology and manufacturing know-how from Korea with Brunei’s halal expertise.