Tuesday, March 11, 2008

178,000 tourist arrivals visiting Brunei last year

By Azlan Othman

About $1.54 million was allocated for the tourism budget in the 2008-2009 financial year, which recorded a 12.8 per cent growth in 2007 with 178,000 tourists visiting the Sultanate last year.

This was revealed by Minister of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR), YB Pehin Orang Kaya Setia Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Dr Awg Hj Ahmad, at the legislative council session which entered its sixth day yesterday.

However, YB Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Awg Goh King Chin said the budget is not enough to promote Brunei tourism, including sports, globally like advertising which he proposed, in the CNN, BBC, ESPN and Star Sports.

The issues raised by members yesterday morning focused on the departments under the MIPR. The Minister also highlighted the responsibility of the public themselves in assisting in the tourism campaign.

"In Brunei, based on the statistics of tourist arrivals (178,000) against the population (391,000), shows that one tourist is looked after by 1.5 people compared to Singapore where there is one tourist for every 2.5 people. 10 million tourists visited Singapore which has a population of four million. In Malaysia, there is one tourist for every 1.5 people", he added.

Responding to a question from YB Dato Paduka Hj Idris, the Minister said tourism last year contributed about $328 million to the Gross Domestic Product (KDNK) in 2007 compared to $275 million in 2004.

The Minister also revealed that there are plans to improve the Ulu Temburong National Park and UBD field studies and research centre, but said there is no plan to set up a golf course in Temburong as proposed by Temburong legislative member, YB Hj Sulaiman Hj Ahad. Currently, there are 44 chalets under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Department at the park.

The Minister also said that BSP Sdn Bhd also plans to make "sky scaffolding" at Sg Liang Recreational Park like those at the Ulu Temburong national park. Sg Liang park received about 23,000 tourists two years ago but the number of visitors dropped at Sg Lalak recreational park.

Asked about the follow-up action made by the Minister himself and officials from his ministry after their visits to the plantations together with the people which was also touched on by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam at the opening of the session last week, which was raised by YB Hj Sulaiman Ahad, the Minister said the visits were part of their tasks where assessment was later made by the heads of department on actions taken and whether they were satisfied or otherwise with the developments.

On the microbe project under the Heart of Borneo between MIPR and Japanese National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE) and our rights if such a project is accepted worldwide as well as the issue of sustainable development as raised by YB Dato Paduka Hj Idris, the Minister said there is a biodiversity centre in Sg Liang under an eight-year plan and the MoU between Forestry and NITE is still in the process, so too is the legal framework.

On the need to inform the public about the Heart of Borneo (HoB) project's implementation, objectives and control as inquired by YB Dato Paduka Hj Puasa, the Minister said that the policy has been agreed upon by the three Borneo countries, while the consultation report to implement it is now under discussion. Meetings have been held in Brunei, Jakarta and soon in Kuching.

A council will be established, subject to the three leaders' approval from Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. "We have no problem on this. We are just awaiting the decision made by the central governments of Malaysia and Indonesia," he said.

The approved 2008-2009 budget of MIPR yesterday include for the Ministry itself which stands at $13,985,720.00, Forestry ($8,203,095.00), Fisheries ($8,398,708.00), Agriculture ($29,550,791.00), Brunei Industrial Development Authority, BINA ($3,940,816.00) and Department of Tourism Development ($1,543,716.00).

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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