Brunei’s Well-Oiled Infrastructure is a Perfect Breeding Ground for MICE Activities

The Sultanate of Brunei is an understated Asian gem thatcontinues to offer a truly unique MICE experience.Despite occupying less than one per cent of Borneo’s land area, Brunei is one of South East Asia’s hidden treasures for the convention and incentive market. Business travellers to Brunei, will find expanding conference, convention and exhibition venues; a spectrum of leisure activities and a growing number of luxury and business class hotels.

For those who wish to savour their precious travel time with a slow-paced, but rich itinerary should consider Brunei, which along with the “Visit Brunei 2008” incentive has recently embarked on a campaign to put the small, oil-rich sultanate on the world travel map as the “Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures” – adding more clout to its original “Abode of Peace” moniker.

This label is quite fitting because “people don’t know what to expect when they come into Brunei,” as it builds its reputation as a tourist destination, said Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed, Director of Brunei Tourism.

With a population of just over 372,000, Brunei is a cultural melting pot with a 67% Malay majority, followed by 15% Chinese, 6% indigenous tribes [including Iban and Kelabit] and other nationalities bringing an exciting mix of cultures sharing parallels with that of Malaysia. Though the nation’s official language is Malay, the majority of the population are fluent in English, which of course serves as a great advantage to the country’s tourism strategy in comparison to say, Thailand or Indonesia.

With Brunei being one of the last remaining places to indulge the business tourism boom, the country often surprises first-time travellers with its array of leisure and nature destinations on offer, ranging from unspoiled rainforests to world-class golfing and convention venues. “You can really be in the thick of things without being far away from the city. This is not a marketing ploy, this is true. We are not overdeveloping like Dubai,” he said. Owing to the small size of Brunei, one can visit a multitude of attractions in a relatively short amount of time – making the overall destination that much more attractive.

Today Brunei receives more than one million visitors annually, generating revenue of around B$175 million [US$115.5 million]. With 125,000 business or high net worth travellers, the demographics show the vast majority are arriving from Asia and increasingly more from Europe. The MICE industry has since become a rapid growing market segment due to its unique, hassle-free atmosphere. “In Brunei we don’t have discotheques and bars, but that is what makes Brunei unique. There are more people now who want to have a serene, quiet kind of peaceful holiday
surrounded by nature and this is what I believe Brunei could offer them,” claims Sheikh Jamaluddin.In fact, Jean Christophe Robles Espinosa, Brunei Tourism Director of Marketing and Promotion mentions that Brunei has inimitable qualities that allow it to be positioned as “a country that MICE delegates can visit as an alternative to the hectic bustle of the majority of Asian destinations.”
And it seems to be working as Brunei is now definitely on the radar as a serious contender for business events. In the recent past, Brunei has played host to a range of high-profile events, and the largest meeting venue, the International Convention Centre (ICC) has greatly enhanced the country’s reputation by hosting APEC meetings, the ASEAN Tourism
Forum Ministers Meetings and the South East Asian Games.
Brunei’s orderly, hassle free capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan has a much to offer potential business event travellers and was voted the seventh “Most Liveable City” in Asia in 2000. Its largely unpolluted, traffic-free surroundings are serene and relaxing, making it a city especially conducive for productive business meetings and conventions.

Not only the centre of Brunei’s commerce, finance and government, Bandar SeriBegawan is in many ways the heart of Brunei’s cultural landscape, housing some truly spectacular landmarks. The breathtaking Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is a stunning tribute to the nation’s deep-rooted faith, while the Kampong Ayer Water Village offers a glimpse of Brunei’s historic charm.

Many incentives are available in Brunei, you can rely on the spectacular natural charms of the country. From mountain biking, sport fishing and scuba diving, to jungle trekking on well-maintained trails – the ecotourism and adventure options in Brunei are seemingly endless.

Local DMC’s in Brunei recognise the potential and have grabbed the opportunities with both hands, promoting the country as a joint package tour with Singapore dubbed as the “urban jungle and the real jungle;” and with Dubai, “from the desert jungle to the green jungle.” And it is apparent that word of mouth has spread. Over the years there has been a steady increase in charter flights from Korean golfing incentive groups staying from three nights up to two weeks – bringing much well received business to both the private operators and tourism board alike.