Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tourism, travel capacity top meeting agenda for Brunei Legislative Council Meeting

By Hamidah Ismail

Issues and questions on the progress of several tourism projects were raised yesterday at the Legislative Council Meeting.

Among them were the Islamic Tourism Plan, development of tourist attractions at the Belalong National Park and Selirong Forest Recreation Park and the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources' (MIPR) Tourism Master Plan raised by YB Dato Paduka Awg Hj Idris bin Hj Abas; and the development of Temburong District and Mukim Kuala Balai raised by Temburong District representative YB Awg Hj Sulaiman bin Hj Ahad and Belait District representative YB Awg Hj Mohd Shafiee bin Ahmad, respectively.

YB Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Awg Goh King Chin posed a question on the necessity of a plan to spend an estimated cost of B$150 million to expand the Brunei International Airport with respect to the number of tourists visiting the country.

"Last year, the media reported that about 190,000 to 200,000 tourists entered the country. But how many per cent of them are transit passengers?" asked YB Pehin Goh. "Do not use a 'parang' to slaughter a chicken, a knife is sufficient."

The Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Yahya answered: "Tourism is just one aspect considered for the expansion of the airport. But for economic development, other economical efforts and future requirements should be considered as well. Moreover, tourism has increased by 20 per cent over the past year and operational costs for this have been provided."

YB Pehin Goh nevertheless praised the Royal Brunei Airline's (RBA) code-sharing collaboration with China airlines Dragonair, as this will attract more tourists from China, Hongkong, Taipei, Japan and Korea. YB Pehin Goh also suggested that transit tourists holding the special fare tickets be obligated to spend a two-day stay in the country to increase business for local hotels and other businesses.

"Although the amount of money spent by these transit tourists here may be small, they are given the chance to tour the city while waiting for their flight, and this in turn will attract them to stay longer in their next visit," replied YB Pehin Yahya.

In reference to the issue on Islamic tourism, YB Pehin Haji Yahya said that the plan has not been implemented yet, but it will be one of the products offered to tourists. "We are not targeting mass-tourism, but rather, experiential tourism," YB Pehin Haji Yahya explained.

With regards to the master plan, YB Pehin Yahya explained that the plan would be carried out based on limitations, that is, "from the top down and not from the bottom up", he said. "For example, alcohol is not encouraged in our country, hence, from this limitation, the master plan will be carried out."

Meanwhile, to promote the Temburong District, meetings are sometimes carried out in the district to expose the public to the district's many eco-tourism spots, the minister added.

A discussion was recently held on the development of Kuala Balai, and the committee members have agreed to rebuild the areas of Kuala Balai with the help of some private sector organisations. A Kuala Balai Development Committee comprising the Belait District Office, Tourism Development Department, Public Works Department, Land Department, Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation and the Town and Country Planning Department will be established to work on the plan. Several initiatives have also been organised, such as the Agro Park, Research Centre, Ethnic Heritage Centre and other tourist-related programmes to expand the tourism in Kuala Balai.

Meanwhile, the Second Minister of Finance at the Prime Minister's Office, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abdul Rahman added that the tender to expand the airport will be released in March and construction will commence by the final quarter of this year for a period of 36 months.

The capacity of the airport will be increased by 50 per cent to accommodate the Haj Pilgrimage, among others.

"A modern concept showcasing a high open ceiling will be implemented while the departure and arrivals halls will be expanded," said YB Pehin Dato Hj Abd Rahman. "A new air conditioning unit will be installed and a security check up point will be centered at the arrival hall. Baggage management system will be improved and shop units will be increased. Parking area will also be enlarged while maintaining a green conceptual overall design of the airport."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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