May 13th, 2021
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Domestic tourism demand has picked up as border closures have prompted increased local spending but the recovery of international travel remains uncertain, the Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS) said in a report.
In its Brunei Economic Update April 2021 publication, the think tank said domestic tourism has benefitted from a rise in consumer spending due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The pandemic has shifted the hospitality industry’s focus to domestic tourism, with the rebranding of tourist attractions and repricing of hotel rooms for staycations.
“Hotel occupancy rates have surged, especially during the December holidays, to 49 percent,” it stated.
The hotel sub-sector reported losses in all four quarters of 2020, with a steep fall of 55.5 percent year-on-year in Q2 when the government imposed a travel ban.
Border closures have severely hit the tourism industry, with the number of tourist arrivals plunging 81.3 percent last year.
As part of efforts to ease COVID-19’s impact on the tourism industry, the government launched a domestic tourism campaign last November to encourage locals to visit local tourist spots and spend on Brunei-made products.
CSPS also noted a marked rise in retail sales, while the restaurants sub-sector has rebounded from losses in the previous two sectors.
However, the aviation industry is still reeling from the impact of COVID-19 despite the relaxing of travel curbs on essential travellers last September.
The air transport sub-sector improved slightly in Q4 2020, but remains deeply depressed after tumbling 83.6 percent.
“As of mid-April, the total number of aircraft landings at the Brunei International Airport was 90 percent lower than the same period a year ago,” CSPS said.
The think tank added that uncertainty still clouds the recovery of international travel and tourism in the short term.
“Border re-opening will require successful containment of COVID-19 both domestically and abroad, and after a thorough review of border policies, quarantine requirements, testing, contact tracing and vaccination.
“Consumer sentiment will likely be shaky until herd immunity is achieved, that is, when a sufficient percentage of the population has become immune to COVID-19,” CSPS said.
Last month, Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said Bruneians will most likely be required to be fully vaccinated before they can resume international travel.
To date, 20,218 people or 4.4 percent of the Brunei population have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose since the country started its vaccination drive on April 3.