Source: The Brunei Times/ANN
By Quaratul-Ain Bandial

The Brunei Tourism Board is targeting an ambitious 20 per cent increase in tourist arrivals this year owing to encouraging growth in 2011, said the board’s CEO.

The increase in visitors will also boost hotel occupancy rates with tourists now leaning towards longer stays, Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed told reporters at the launch for Brunei Tourism’s new iPad app yesterday.

“Last year we had exceptionally good growth…over 26 per cent and this year we’re going to target the same amount (around) 20 per cent…. We’re noticing the trend is longer stay, which is exactly what our goals are.”

The tourism chief said most arrivals remain from China, with approximately 2,000 visitors per month. Last year, about 30,000 arrivals from China were recorded.

The Sultanate is also experiencing renewed interest from Korea, he added, with the board eyeing markets in the UK and Singapore as a fresh source of visitors.

“We’re doing more roadshows than tradeshows now. We’re working closely with our airlines and the next roadshow will be done in Australia,” said the tourism director. “I’m very optimistic about the growth of tourism for Brunei. This is another step forward.”

Sheikh Jamaluddin said the modernisation of Brunei International Airport was also an important move, to create a positive first impression for tourists.

“Brunei to them is a rich country with the Sultan of Brunei and oil and gas. At least if we can meet the expectations, we don’t have to exceed (it), that’s fine. It’s high time we do the airport (renovations).”

The $130 million uprgrading project, slated for completion in November 2014, is expected to double the airport’s handling capacity from 1.5 million passengers to three million passengers.

It will see the construction of a new terminal, car park, a more efficient baggage handling system and conveyor belt, a new check-in facility, arrival corridor and flight transfer area, among others.

The expansion will also see an additional 50 per cent more floor space, including a larger departure lounge.

The modernised airport is expected to boost Brunei’s efforts to develop itself as a competitive air logistics hub in the region.