Brunei-East Malaysia tourism packages, in particular eco-tourism
destinations, are a natural selection in fulfilling the "single-destination vision" of the Asean Tourism campaign.
Speaking during a lunch break of the Asean Tourism Forum 2010 at the Empire Hotel and Country Club
, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, Minister of Tourism Malaysia, said that her department is currently discussing to promote joint travel packages with the Royal Brunei Airlines.
Dr Ng Yen Yen also said there have been discussions with Brunei's Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources to realise these "solid" opportunities.
"I see synergy in the development of eco-tourism between Brunei and East Malaysia," said the Malaysian minister, who was wearing a fusion of "kebaya-chongsam-sarong-india" dress to reflect the multi-ethnicity of Malaysia.
Dr Ng Yen cited the canopy walk in Ulu Temburong and the proboscis monkey sightings in the heart of town as some of the potentials that could be included in the eco-destination package.
"If tourists want to go to Sabah for an eco-tour, commonsense will take them to Brunei to experience the Sultanate's magical landscape and natural wonders," she added.
There are numerous potentials that can be worked out between Brunei and Malaysia, she said.
She stated that in terms of number (of tourists), eco-tourism is not big, but in terms of quality, eco-tourism can be built upon on aspects like longer stay and more time spent, for example in safari-type travel.
"I am very focussed on the 'package' as it is all about packaging - how you package your products and how you make them attractive and worthwhile," she further explained.
Asked how important are Bruneians in relation to Malaysia's tourism market (Brunei is the fourth largest tourism market for Malaysia), Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen revealed some statistics.
She said last year, Malaysia recorded a 7.2 per cent jump in overall tourist arrivals. "This showed that 2009 was a very successful year in terms of our efforts to aggressively promote Malaysia as one of the preferred holiday destinations in the region.
"The achievement is more meaningful to us considering the many challenges and crises which we had to face throughout the year, such as the global economic crisis and the H1N1 outbreak," she said.
And for some reasons like the H1N1, the number of Bruneian tourists visiting Malaysia actually dropped last year, she said.
"Brunei is still a major market for us. We just have to renew our programmes in the lifestyle tourism sector as well as in food and hospitality sector," she said.
In terms of numbers, Bruneian tourists are relatively small, but the population presents a significant economic value, she said. This is because the majority of tourists from Brunei are shoppers and bargain hunters, who stay a few days to shop around.
"Malaysia is almost entirely duty free," the minister said, "in cosmetics and even in the shoe industry."