Bandar Seri Begawan – The Year of the Tiger is off to a good start this year for Brunei’s tourism industry players as tour agencies and hotels have experienced quick sales and are expecting high occupancy with visitors coming in from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan during the Chinese New Year.
Brunei Tourism Development Department Director told The Brunei Times yesterday that the Chinese New Year would mark the start of “streams” of tourists coming to Brunei over the next few months, especially during public holidays and major celebrations such as His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s birthday in July.
The whole year is looking better especially after the ATF (Asean Tourism Forum hosted in Brunei last month). We expected to receive a lot of exposure for Brunei around the world,” said Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed.
The tourism director said that Chinese New Year was one of Brunei’s “top calendar events” where tourists will be coming in through chartered flights. In this regard, he reminded taxi drivers and frontline staff in the hospitality industry as well as Bruneians to welcome guests, while portraying the positive and friendly image of the country.
“This is the result of the effort of our tour operators, so everybody has to help to give them (tourists) a good impression of Brunei,” Sheikh Jamaluddin said.
Managing Director of PJ Majestic Tours Peter Chieng said that he had about 1,300 tourists in about 60 groups coming to Brunei from February 13-20 for the Chinese New Year. Close to 300 of these tourists are coming from Taiwan, he added.
Although PJ Majestic offered no special package for Chinese New Year, he said that he worked out tailor-made packages with wholesalers in China and Taiwan. The Taiwanese tourists will be spending four nights at The Empire Hotel & Country Club, while the Chinese tourists have been booked for two nights at the luxury beach resort. Chieng also said that the numbers this year were similar to that of previous years.
“Every year, we have big volumes of tourists coming here for Chinese New Year. Last year, we were not really affected by the economic crisis. But the only difference this year, I think, is that it is easier to sell (tour packages during Chinese New Year). There were no last-minute bookings, everything was sold out from early on,” he said.
“Considering the economic recovery, I can say 2010 looks much better than 2008 and 2009,” he added. Qistina Omar, assistant public relations manager of The Empire Hotel & Country Club, said that they are expecting “high occupancy” during the Chinese New Year period from February 12-28.
Arriving on chartered flights, tourists will come from several provinces from China, including Guangzhou and Shanghai, as well as tourists from Hong Kong and Taiwan. They are arriving during this period to celebrate Chinese New Year, she added.
Although she could not specify the exact number of flights, she said that at least three chartered flights of tourists will be coming to stay at The Empire Hotel & Country Club, with each flight carrying around 150-200 passengers. She noted that their reservations have already been made. “For walk-in guests who are celebrating Chinese New Year, there are currently no promotional rates offered but upon check-in, we will try to extend the best available rates to them,” she said.
She added that there will be a lion dance performance on the 14th at three venues: Li Gong Restaurant, the lobby lounge and the Atrium Café from
Desmond Chong, the Chinese division inbound manager at GoodMILES Sdn Bhd, said that he had about 490 tourists, mainly from Hong Kong coming to Brunei for the festive occasion. He said that the figure was similar to last year’s, where GoodMILES received about 600 Chinese tourists. However, last year saw more tourists from mainland China, whereas this year GoodMILES was receiving tourists mainly from Hong Kong. Desmond did not attribute this variation to any particular reason.
Most of the tourists were flying Royal Brunei Airlines, with three groups using budget airline AirAsia. He said that bookings had not been affected by the suspension of the national carrier’s Shanghai flights.
Desmond also pointed out that a majority of the tourists would be on transit flights. spending two days and one night in the Sultanate, where they will participate on tours to the country’s main attractions, as well as see the night market in Gadong and Jerudong Park. Meanwhile, only two groups of 26 and 35 tourists respectively will spend four days in Brunei for a more extensive tour