BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — The Brunei December Festival 2020 kicked off on Thursday with a scaled-down launching ceremony in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourism officials planned to get locals to spend their money in the country during the year-end holidays as travel restrictions are yet to be lifted.

The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) hopes to increase the number of visitors this year with over 70 events lined up throughout the month-long festival.

The inaugural festival attracted 98,289 visitors with 35 events in 2017 before growing to 200,822 visitors last year with 60 events.

This year’s series of events are divided into five categories: food festival, Islamic festival, sports and adventure, culture and creative arts, as well as recreation and shopping.

During the launch, 40 event organisers exhibited their activities while members of the public  purchased tickets.

The exhibition will run until December 4 on the ground floor of Times Square Shopping Centre and first floor of Citis Square.

MPRT minister YB Dato Hj Ali browses Darussalam Holdings’ travel packages during the Brunei December Festival 2020 launching ceremony. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Travel service providers turn focus to domestic tourism

With the outbound travel ban still in place since March, travel service providers were forced to shift their focus to domestic tourism in order to stay afloat.

Darussalam Holdings (DHSB) assistant marketing and product development officer Siti Nur Hazirah Hj Abd Latif told The Scoop that the travel agency has created over 20 packages since July this year, collaborating with the local community to offer trips to places of attractions in the four districts. 

Established in 1997, Darussalam Holdings is known as the official Haj agent for Brunei but also offers inbound and outbound activities as well as tour packages.

“In the beginning, the response was overwhelming as not many people recognised that DHSB also offer inbound packages. We managed to create more packages due to the high demand,” she said.

As the travel industry is still facing a period of uncertainty, Siti Nur Hazirah said DHSB is preparing a number of travel packages to welcome back its customers.

“This is so that when the borders are open, we are prepared for it. We also continue to receive enquiries about our Haj and Umrah packages,” she added.

In November, the Islamic Religious Council issued a statement that it will not be sending Bruneians to perform Umrah after Saudi Arabia reopened the Islamic pilgrimage for foreigners on November 1.

Bruneians living abroad were also banned from performing the year-round Umrah.

JPCC promotes its Brunei December Festival 2020 activities. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Other tourism service providers such as Jerudong Park Playground, opt to entice visitors by offering promotions.

Jerudong Park Playground, as well as Jerudong Park Gardens, Jerudong Park Amphitheatre and Jerudong Park and Country Club (JPCC) were temporarily closed on March 18 as part of COVID-19 preventive measures.

It was only in July that the playground was allowed to operate at a limited capacity of 30 percent.

JPCC sales assistant officer II Fatin Damia Hj Mohd Saifuddin said most of the rides have opened and they have seen an increase in visitors.

More than 7,000 visitors have turned up at the ‘Animals in the Park’ show, which is one of its activities lined up for the school holidays.

The launch of Brunei December Festival also saw 12 disciplines of martial arts — silat, wushu, karate, taekwondo, judo, kendo, kempo, hapkido, MMA, muay thai, fencing and archery — brought together in one performance.

The special martial art performance was recorded in the Brunei Book of Records.