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NEW UPDATES Asean Affairs   2  January 2014  
A tall order for Brunei tourism

BRUNEI should work towards being at par with Sabah and Sarawak if it wants to be a standalone holiday destination for nature tourism, said a hotel manager recently.

The Sultanate is sandwiched by the two Malaysian states which are well-established nature tourism destinations, and in order to compete, the Brunei government needs to implement the right policies and build the required infrastructure, said Brunei Hotel General Manager Andy Goh.

“Sarawak has the biggest cave in the world, the Mulu Cave. Sabah has the highest peak in Southeast Asia (Mount Kinabalu). So they have a different edge of their own,” he explained.

“So therefore, in order to make Brunei a unique destination for nature travellers, the government would have to put in a lot of effort to make that happen and to ensure that all the supporting facilities are available. If Brunei Tourism has an idea on how to go about doing that, then they really should work on it.”

The Tourism Masterplan, designed by the Tourism Development Department, is the key to establishing Brunei as a standalone holiday destination but much of its success will heavily depend on the dedication and effort put in by the government towards achieving the goal, said the hotel manager recently.

With the introduction of the masterplan that outlines plans to develop several sub-segments including nature, Islamic tourism and heritage, the relevant agencies “would need to work towards making it happen”, he said.

He told The Brunei Times that the success of transforming Brunei into a standalone holiday destination as opposed to merely a stopover destination will “depend on how the government agency is working towards the goal”.

“If the masterplan already outlines Islamic tourism, nature and heritage as the key areas to develop, then the relevant agencies need to work them out and transform Brunei into the holiday destination rather than just a stopover. They really have to work towards making that happen,” said Goh.

“If you talk about Islamic tourism, bear in mind that we’re surrounded by Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, so how do they distinguish Brunei as more different in terms of its Islamic values?”

Likewise, if Brunei wants to strengthen its nature and heritage segments, the government needs to work hard towards developing the sectors.

Goh also suggested that at the moment, the relevant parties should continue creating holiday stopover programmes to benefit Brunei while working on the masterplan.

“Let’s not deny that Sabah and Sarawak have the edge or the upper hand compared to Brunei in terms of nature tourism. We would not win the tourists over by telling them not to visit Mulu Cave or Mount Kinabalu. That’s not going to happen,” he said.

“So Kg Ayer is probably our strength that Sabah and Sarawak do not have. The question is how to link Kg Ayer with the nature tourism products and what does Brunei need to do to ensure facilities at the Water Village is tourist-friendly.”

Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar said there are seven potential growth drivers with 13 sub-segments in the Tourism Masterplan.

The growth drivers are outdoors, culture and Islamic tourism, health and wellness, cruises and marine, education and exchange sites, and business, he said.

“Every driver and segment is a challenge,” the minister said when asked how the Tourism Development Department plans to uniquely develop Islamic tourism. “Our target is different from Malaysia and Indonesia.”

In March last year, the minister said the Tourism Masterplan had identified 69 projects to raise the tourism industry in Brunei.

On the 69 projects that have been identified by the masterplan to be developed and expanded, the minister said that these included upgrading museums, building a sanctuary for proboscis monkeys, training tourist guides, increasing tourist facilities at Kg Senukoh as well as the building of Kg Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery in its second phase. The Brunei Times

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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