The Tourism Development Department (TDD) has launched new destination packages for each of Brunei’s districts in a bid to kickstart the tourism industry with domestic activity in the country’s early endemic phase.

Brunei’s tourism industry has taken a significant hit since the country closed its borders with the first wave of COVID-19 in March 2020. Although domestic tourism enjoyed a small boost between the end of the first wave in the last quarter of 2020 and the outbreak of the second wave in August 2021, tourist arrivals in the first nine months of 2021 totaled 2,700 – about 1% of the total over the same period in 2019.

TDD – and the industry’s public-private board Brunei Tourism – are now planning for a domestic push with Brunei in its early endemic phase, which will help prepare the industry for the eventual arrival of tourists when the global pandemic subsides.

The packages for each districts have been designed as map brochures on Brunei Tourism’s website, and consolidate new and existing attractions – focusing on experiential tours; where visitors can discover cultural sites, local products, enjoy nature, and partake in recreational activities.

In the first of a series of packages launches in different districts earlier this month, the Minister of Primary Resource and Tourism YB Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Ali Apong said the packages were more flexible in comparison to previous iterations, to give visitors more customisability based on their budget and interests.

“(The packages) promote attractions offering experiential tours that combine tourism primer products, new emerging products and products by the village consultative councils (MPK),” said the minister at the Temburong destination launch on February 3 at the newly opened The Abode Resort & Spa.

He added that the socialisation of the packages and their attractions would help the domestic market’s anticipated main holiday periods which are the school holidays in April, August, and December. Recreational activities and staycations for all family members have been given the greenlight since the country entered into its early endemic phase on December 15, 2021.

Temburong welcomes first luxury solar-powered resort

MPRT Minister YB Dato Hj Ali viewing one of the 10 chalets at the newly opened The Abode.

Brunei’s main eco-tourist destination officially welcomed its first luxury solar-powered resort, The Abode Resort & Spa, as part of the Temburong packages’ launch.

The two hectare site off the main road of Jalan Labu features ten chalets, with plans to build up to 70 units over the next five years if market demand increases. The resort is a decidedly premium offering in the district, with nightly stays starting at $398.

The Temburong brochure lists 16 sites in total to either visit or stay. Each of the eco-lodges based in Temburong, including Sumbiling Eco-Village, Trandie, Freme Rainforest Lodge, and The Abode, offer their guests a number of guided hiking trails and boat and river activities.

Other highlights include the Sibut long house which showcases Iban culture and MPK Batu Apoi’s locally made sago, which is used to make one of the country’s main dishes ambuyat.

Tutong gaining traction for eco- and community-based tourism

The Bintudoh Greenspring Resort is one of the more popular eco-lodges in Tutong, complete with recreational facilities, accommodation and dining.

Tutong has become an increasingly popular option for local and foreign visitors to learn about traditional Brunei culture, buoyed by active MPKs with a number of village products and activities.

The weekly Thursday market of Tamu Tutong where fresh local produce and cooked delicacies can be found is a popular start for visitors looking to see what’s on offer the district.

For those looking to gain insight to Tutong’s heritage and way of life, the home of Tanjong Maya’s former penghulu has been converted into a living museum run by his descendants called Lamin Warisan. There are also several eco-lodges and homestays including the Bintudoh Greenspring Resort, Eco Ponies Garden, and one of the last traditional Dusun homes, the Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau.

The district is also home to a number of sustainable agriculture businesses, including those that produce coconut oil, agarwood perfume, honey, seafood as well as rear deer.

On the coast and down south: Belait’s dual attractions

Another attraction along Jalan Labi is Brunei’s biggest coffee farm, spanning nine hectares and home to some 18,000 coffee plants.

Much of Belait’s attractions can be divided into two areas: one showcasing the oil and gas industry along the coastal towns of Seria and Kuala Belait; and the other offering nature and traditional living in the district’s inner, rural south along Jln Labi.

In Seria, visitors can learn about the source of the nation’s wealth at the commemorative Billionth Barrel Monument and the recently revamped Seria Energy Lab.

Along the winding 50km road of Jln Labi that connects visitors to Belait’s rural south are a number of eco-based attractions; beginning with the Tropical Biodiversity Centre, followed by the picturesque alluvial freshwater swamp Luagan Lalak.

Towards the end of Jln Labi are the road’s two Iban longhouses, Mendaram Besar and Teraja, which are surrounded by trekking routes leading to waterfalls.

Audio tours offer new depth to popular sites in Brunei-Muara

MPRT Permanent Secretary Hjh Tutiaty (C) viewing pieces at Yayasan’s Islamic Calligraphy and Art Study Centre.

Visitors to the Royal Regalia Museum can now explore its galleries with a digital audio tour through the free izi.TRAVEL mobile app courtesy of local IT company Dynamik Technologies. The audio guides are expected to be rolled out to different attractions, and will be complemented by virtual touring options as well.

Though it may not have the escapism of the eco-lodges of Tutong and Temburong, Brunei-Muara arguably has more range in the types of activities visitors can partake in.

Adventure seeking enthusiasts can access watersports and diving in Muara from Poni Divers, have a game of Paintball in Jerudong, go off-roading with ATVs at the Katimahar Agri Park. In the capital, the Islamic Calligraphy and Art Study Centre of Yayasan Sultan Hj Hassanal Bolkiah not only features famous artworks and artefacts but offers calligraphy lessons.

Those looking to experience Brunei’s water village of Kg Ayer also can avail to a number of homestays, dining experiences and galleries; complemented by river cruises along the nearby mangroves to see proboscis monkeys and other wildlife.

Brunei earns six wins at the ASEAN Tourism Standards Awards 2022

The packages’ launch also saw a ceremonial awarding for the recently held ASEAN Tourism Standards Awards, where Brunei earned six awards.

Radisson Hotel won the ASEAN Green Hotel Award and the ASEAN MICE Venue Award. The Empire and Armada also took home the ASEAN MICE Venue Award.

Freme Travel Services’ eco-lodge’s Discover Temburong package won the ASEAN Sustainable Tourism Award (Rural Category). Their two days, one night package is inclusive of transporting guests to their Temburong lodge, offering fully guided activities, food and facilities in a rural setting.

Tutong also earned the ASEAN Clean Tourist City Award which not only recognises standards of cleanliness, but the number of cultural, natural, and man-made attractions.