By Zasika Musdi
The increase in number of visits from tourists as a very positive indicator of the country's significant development was the main focus of a speech yesterday from Dato Paduka Hj Hamdillah Hj Abd Wahab, Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, at the launching of the Second Consumer Fair 2008.
He said that the ministry welcomes the increasing number of cruise ships and passengers making calls at Muara Port, as well as that of chartered flights and tourists coming in via Brunei International Airport, and conferences, forums, trade fairs and expos by various agencies.
He stated that these activities act as important platforms that can facilitate and contribute to the economic diversification agenda. According to statistics, the number of cruises coming in has increased from four in 2006 to 20 in 2008, while that of passengers has grown from 1,004 in 2006 to 17,000 in 2008.
The number of major conference events has also increased from four in 2006 to at least nine in 2008, while that of delegates has risen from 2,800 in 2006 to 5,500 in 2008.
Meanwhile, the number of charter flights has increased from four in 2006 to 97 in 2008 and passenger arrivals have risen from 2,082 in 2006 to an estimated 16,000 in 2008.
Just over the last four months, Brunei Darussalam has also received more than 4,000 Koreans - a higher figure than that recorded for the whole of last year. "These numbers speak huge volumes and I cannot help but feel very optimistic," he said.
However, he added that such significant developments must be managed effectively if the country is to benefit from growth trends on a sustainable basis.
The Sultanate's main attractions and places of interests, such as the Royal Regalia and museums among others, would be more heavily utilised and thus may be under pressure to withstand the expected number of visitors.
"My message to all responsible asset owners of buses, canopy walks, bridges and walkways, and to our tourism stakeholders and front liners - please pay extra attention to the integrity of our assets, increase inspection of our assets and maintain the HSE standards of our services.
"I also ask tour guides, bus drivers and all front-liners to be more vigilant in taking care of the safety of our visitors and guides.
"With the number of tourists and visitors arriving in the country, we are targeting a seven per cent growth in 2008. I am expecting a double-digit growth, not dissimilar from last year's 12.9 per cent.
"Business activity should be brisker as the demand for local handicrafts, souvenirs and restaurants could increase. I expect hotel occupancy would be better in 2008 compared to 2006 and 2007, while consumer spending should also improve as a consequence."
According to JPKE, personal consumption expenditure accounted for 22.5 per cent of the GDP in 2005, slightly higher than government consumption expenditure of 18.4 per cent of the GDP, which is still one third of the benchmark. The Deputy Minister said there is still plenty of room for growth.
Additionally, he finds the fair's special local products section especially encouraging. "I do believe that this will contribute to the government's efforts in developing local Micro SMEs, and encourage them to produce local products.
"This is in line with the objective of KNK and our drive to create entrepreneurship, as well as to produce more local products in districts and villages, and among Micro SMEs and business associations," he added.
The increasing demand for capacity building of human resources and business organisations was also another issue raised by Dato Paduka Hj Hamdillah.
An increasing number of expos and trade fairs in the country, organised by local companies, would mean a rising capacity and ability of local companies in events management.
"This is a positive development, which, I believe, could one day make Brunei not only as an expo-hub in this sub-region, but also a major conference destination of choice."
He concluded by encouraging local entrepreneurs to dig deeper into their reservoirs of knowledge to find more innovative ways of turning opportunities into bankable business undertakings.
"While the government continues to provide the environment for creating and facilitating business and investment opportunities, it is only enterprising businessmen and women that can translate them into profitable and competitive enterprises," he said.Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin