Focusing on faith-based tourism

A group of tourists taking photographs of the Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan. Picture: BT file

Monday, April 25, 2011

BRUNEI has made bold moves to realise its plans in making faith-based tourism an integral part of its international agenda.

The Sultanate's tourism sector has been gaining in momentum, making up for a fall in tourist arrivals in 2009 due to global concerns over the Avian Flu and H1N1.

Brunei, however, has managed to bounce back pushing arrival numbers up by 26 per cent last year, "all but wiping out the reversal of the year before", stated the Oxford Business Group (OBG) in a recent report.

In 2009, visitor arrivals coming through Customs had dropped to just 157,000 visitors from 194,000 the previous year. For 2011, senior tourism officials are predicting a rise of 20 per cent that will hopefully push the numbers to "well over the 230,000 mark".

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), according to a recent Oxford Business Group (OBG) report, projected that "the total contribution of the tourism sector to Brunei Darussalams economy will be around $256.8m this year, a figure that is expected to rise by an average of 3.2% annually over the next decade".

The council also estimated that Brunei's GDP will rise to 6.2 per cent by 2021 from 5.8 per cent this year.



A focus on faith-based tourism will be a major factor in drawing new visitors to Brunei Darussalam, the report added, citing a major Islamic art exhibition as one of the main attractions.

Entitled "Brunei: The Islamic Experience", the exhibition "contains pieces from the collection of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam as well as replicas of holy relics housed in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, including the sword of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)".

The exhibition, held last month, was hoped to draw visitors interested in the Malay and Muslim world, including Brunei's Islamic way of life.

Brunei had also had talks with its neighbour Malaysia on providing complementary tourism packages "to create a regional trail of Islamic civilisation in South-east Asia".

In the report, it is stated that Dato Paduka Dr Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, believes "such a move could only help to develop faith-based tourism" and "thus could spread the message that Islamic tourism is an experience that people must not forgo".The Brunei Times