Brunei Darussalam launched its new domestic tourism campaign, Selera Bruneiku (A Taste of Brunei), late last year to help local businesses affected by the ban on non-essential inbound and outbound travel. Recently, it tapped social media influencers to drum up support for the campaign.
Several countries in Southeast Asia focused on promoting domestic tourism as they battled to curb rising COVID-19 infections. The region suffered a 75.8% decline in tourism receipts in 2020, compared with 2019 based on early estimates. International arrivals dropped by 80.5%, and hotel room occupancy was at its lowest level. The slump in travel and tourism has affected not just businesses but also people’s livelihoods.
An Asian Development Bank study shows domestic tourism could make up for the revenue loss from the absence of foreign tourists. This is possible for countries with a strong domestic tourism market.
Four districts, four social media influencers
Selera Bruneiku is a specially curated guide that encourages Bruneians and residents to sample the unique attractions of four districts: Brunei-Muara, Tutong, Belait, and Temburong. To stimulate the growth of domestic tourism, the campaign focuses on attracting local tourists to go on a food journey while experiencing local product offerings and activities.
More than 40 travel and tourism-related businesses, including hotels, restaurants, and tour operators, joined the campaign when it was launched. Special offers include staycation packages and tours, promotional menus, and cultural and recreational activities.
In March, Brunei’s Tourism Development Department challenged four social media influencers, DJ Daffy, Kurapak, Ranoadidas, and Eat.What.Now, to each promote a district on Instagram. The 3-week competition is a collaboration between the Tourism Development Department and Datastream Digital (DST) Sdn Bhd. Instagram followers voted for their favorite influencer, and travel and lifestyle blogger Kurapak, who visited Belait district, won the top prize.
Belait is the largest and westernmost district in Brunei and much of the population is concentrated in the coastal towns of Seria, where oil was discovered in 1929, and Kuala Belait, which means “the mouth of the Belait River” in Malay.
In the Belait interior can be found undisturbed wilderness and an indigenous people with their own language, dress, customs, and oral literature. Popular outdoor activities include taking a stroll by the calm waters of the lake at Luagan Lalak Recreational Park in the Labi Hill Forest Reserve, going to the waterfalls at Wasai Teraja, and getting acquainted with Iban culture and sampling their cuisine at the Teraja or Mendaram longhouses.
Ranoadidas, also a blogger, went to Temburong, known as the green jewel of Brunei. The district’s main attraction is the Ulu Temburong National Park, an important conservation area with rainforests, streams, and waterfalls. Trandie Brunei, an eco lodge located by the Temburong river, offers various outdoor activities, such as a flying fox zipline, abseiling and rock climbing, and canoeing and white water rafting. Sumbiling Eco-Village is a jungle camp that features Iban cuisine, such as manuk pansuh (bamboo chicken) and paku pakis, a dish made with vegetables picked from the forest.
Temburong can now be reached by residents in the capital city in Brunei-Muara via the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge, the longest bridge in Southeast Asia. A flagship priority infrastructure project under BIMP-EAGA, the 30-kilometer bridge was opened in 2020.
Brunei is divided into two areas by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Before the bridge was opened, commuters traveling between Brunei-Muara and Temburong had to pass through four immigration points along the previous route, which was often congested.
Local radio personality DJ Daffy visited Brunei-Muara, which is where the capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan, is located. Although the smallest of all the districts, it is the seat of government and a fusion of tradition and modernity. It hosts historical landmarks, such as the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque, and the world’s largest settlement on stilts, Kampong Ayer (water village). Rainforests are located close to the city center. The district extends all the way to Muara, a major sea port and a launch pad for coral reef and shipwreck diving.
Top attractions and activities include the Brunei River cruise; Kunyit 7 Lodge, a charming accommodation with a front-row view of the Brunei river; Ar-Rafi Archery; a guided tour of the 250-acre Katimahar Agripark on an all-terrain vehicle; and the village community of MPK Sungai Bunga, where one can experience kampung (village) living.
Karen and Alex of the Eat.What.Now food channel sampled farm-to-table dishes in Tutong, where farms have opened their doors to visitors to learn traditional cooking and handicrafts and sample rural life. The blogger duo foraged for fresh ingredients for their cooking class at Lamin Warisan, made crafts from coconut shells and bamboos at Lamin Kampung’s workshop, visited the Tasbee Meliponiculture Farm, and engaged with the Dusun community at Alai Gayoh.
Eco Ponies Garden, which offers farm-to-table dining and farm-stay, and Kiudang Village, which won the ASEAN Community-Based Tourism Award in 2017, are destinations in the district that are also featured in the Selera Bruneiku campaign. Other attractions include Ariffin Gallery, which showcases antiques, handicrafts and traditional musical instruments, and Bedanu Waterfall Recreational Park.
Tutong is also known for the largest natural black-water lake in the Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park. The color of the water comes from the tannins released by surrounding vegetation. The park itself is a major attraction, especially among birdwatchers. An ASEAN Heritage site and a sanctuary for rare and endangered species, such as the white-collared fruit bat, clouded leopard, and Bornean gibbon, it is perfect for those who wish to make their Tutong trip a memorable one.