BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei has posted a 16 percent increase in tourist arrivals by air year-on-year from January to August 2019, data from the Tourism Development Department showed.

Acting Director of Tourism Development Salinah Hj Salleh Tuesday said a total of 213,007 tourists visited the sultanate from January to August 2019, exceeding the 183,637 arrivals in the same period in 2018.

Presenting the latest figures during a media briefing on the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2020, she attributed the growth to high travel demand and improved air connectivity with the Far East market such as China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.

She added that local events and international sports events also drove the surge in tourists.

Malaysia was the top tourism market for Brunei with 50,111 arrivals, compared to China with 49,533 arrivals from January to August 2019. This was followed by Indonesia with 20,445 arrivals and the Philippines with 16,971 arrivals.

The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism had previously set an eight percent growth target or 300,000 air arrivals for 2019.

Brunei is hosting ATF 2020 from January 12-16, where tourism officials and exhibitors are meeting promote Southeast Asia as a single tourist destination.

During the opening ceremony of ATF 2020 on Tuesday, the minister of primary resources and tourism said ASEAN has benefited from the increase in tourists in the last decade but the growth also poses challenges in achieving sustainable tourism development.

YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong said the rise in number of visitor arrivals in ASEAN presents opportunities, in terms of generating economic activities as well as investment and employment.

However, he said the ASEAN tourism industry also faces challenges including the carrying capacity of tourist sites, as well as providing tourism facilities and services expected by different visitor groups in each ASEAN member state.

ASEAN recorded over 133 million international arrivals last year, a seven percent increase from 2018. Intra-ASEAN travel comprised 36.7 percent of international arrivals in 2018, said the minister.

Dancers perform at the opening of the ASEAN Toursim Forum, held at The Empire Brunei on Jan 14, 2020. Photo: Infofoto

He said this year’s ATF theme ‘ASEAN – Together Towards a Next Generation of Travel’ is meant to reflect the tourism industry’s rapid development.

“Industry partners are quickly adapting to the trends of changing travel patterns and tourist behaviours because of technological advancements,” he said.

YB Dato Hj Ali added the advancements would make it possible for businesses to grow into new areas such as offering augmented and virtual reality experiences; mobile applications that can be customised to cater to tourists’ personal preferences; as well as providing smart and easy access in making online reservation and purchases at tourist destinations.

In line with digitalisation, the ASEAN Tourism website has been revamped to be more user-friendly and meet rising demand for digital tourism experiences and availability of information.

HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, launched the website during the opening ceremony.

The website aims to be a credible online source to drive and attract more interest to Southeast Asia as a preferred destination to experience the culture and way of life of the people in ASEAN.