Friday, February 06, 2009

Brunei has potential to become home of eco-tourism in Asean

By James Kon

Brunei Darussalam has the opportunity to become a hotspot in eco-tourism in the region thanks to its untouched and pristine forests.

Mr Fumihiro Sakakibara, the President of Mile Post Consultants Sdn Bhd highlighted this yesterday during an interview with the Bulletin after conducting a successful two-day seminar on Japanese Tourism.

"I like Brunei very much. Countries in the region such as Sarawak, Sabah, Indonesia and Mindanao in the Philippines basically share the same kind of forests. However, Brunei has the upper hand as it has no history of logging. The forest is still pristine and untouched. The distance to the forest is subtle and located on good roads," he said.

Mr Sakakibara also emphasised that since the population of the sultanate is rather small, it is easy to educate the people on the importance of an eco-tourism concept. If there is a heightened awareness, Brunei can be the home of eco-tourism in Asean. However, he also warned of the inevitable, "We have to prepare ourselves for a downturn in the tourism market this year due to the global financial crisis. The sultanate's tourism industry might be adversely affected if it continues to depend on South Korean tourists," he said.

He further added that the Korean won dropped tremendously and it will be very difficult for many Koreans to travel overseas. If Brunei continues to rely on the Korean market, the nation's tourism industry will face a major problem.

When asked about the Japanese market, he said, "The market trend changes every 10 years and the market is currently shifting from youths to elderly people. To attract the Japanese market, one has to shift to selling elderly products."

He also touched on the gender and working population issues. "The marriage age in Japan has increased and women are not getting any younger. According to the statistics in 2005, almost 60 per cent of females aged between 25 and 29 years are not married. These people are the good segments to be targeted.

"Traditional and popular Japanese tourists destinations such as USA, Hawaii, Singapore, France, Switzerland, UK and Hong Kong saw a decrease in the number of tourists. Statistics from the year 2000 to 2007 reveal that there was a 3,000,000 reduction in the number of Japanese people who decided not to visit these popular destinations. Fresh destinations such as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Turkey are among the new tourist destinations on the rise. Japanese tourists have been venturing to these states during the same period," Mr Sakakibara said.

The president of Mile Post Consultants Sdn Bhd also stated that Japanese people are looking for new travel destinations and Brunei is still very new and unknown to them. If the sultanate can implement good marketing strategies, it can attract a slice of the Japanese market.

Through TV programmes, inviting journalists as well as travel agents to visit Brunei can help promote and expose the country.

He also said, "The Japanese market changes very quickly and the need to observe such changes is essential in order to keep up with the market trends."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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