Those in the know would often refer to the oil-rich sultanate of Brunei as the “Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures” as the country has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.
“Brunei has many places of interest and it is a small country where everything is so accessible. More importantly, it is a peaceful place with a low crime rate. English is spoken everywhere, which make it a good destination for off-site meetings and corporate retreats,” says Anthony Chieng, managing director, Sunshine Borneo Tours & Travel.
And for Grace Virly, MICE division manager at Good Miles Borneo, the sultanate is a safe haven for an eco-adventure without venturing far from your urban comfort zone. “The country has many natural attractions waiting to be explored. Those motivated by an opportunity to have an adventurous trip can look forward to an eco-park tour, canopy walk and island hopping. Brunei is bordered by 33 islands covering an area of 7,939 hectares, a natural habitat for birds, flying foxes and other animals endemic to the island of Borneo,” she observes.
Both of them point out that in recent years, Brunei has been chosen as a venue for some major and high-profile corporate events. It was the site of the Rolls-Royce Borneo Tour in 2005 where 40 vintage (some about 100 years old) and new models of Rolls-Royce and Bentley luxury cars were put on public display in the Bruneian capital Bandar Seri Begawan.
The country was also the venue for the Diamond Invitational incentive event held by Amway Korea in 2005. The Empire Hotel and Country Club hosted the 300-strong group for five nights of “ultra-luxurious” hospitality that included a series of theme parties (Hawaiian, Malay and Black&White), a polo exhibition match at the polo club, water-sports activities, spa treatments and tee-offs at the resort’s Jack Nicklaus-designed championship course overlooking the South China Sea.
It was so successful that Amway Korea picked The Empire Hotel again as the venue for an incentive trip last year.
“The VIP guests were all transported by limousines. People felt like royalty as they were being escorted by 12 horse guardsmen with their distinctive set of uniforms, stationed to welcome and guide the guests. It was one of the event highlights and it was such a popular attraction,” recalls Virlys of Good Miles Borneo, which was one of the companies that handled ground arrangements.
Virlys says that watching a polo match at the Jerundong Park Polo Club is now a popular part of the Brunei itinerary.
“The polo match – the sports of kings at the JPPC – is now considered as one of the premier social events in our incentive programmes. It must be seen and should never be missed while you are in Brunei. We have the polo match as part of our MICE programme since 2005. The demonstration match takes four chukkas, enough to complete our corporate and hospitality events. Players are local Bruneians and professionals in this field.”
A sample 2-day itinerary for a Brunei meeting package prepared by Good Miles Borneo:
Arrive at the Brunei International Airport and limousine transfer to the Empire Hotel & Country Club
Jerundong Park Polo Club
0800 Enjoy a delightful a la carte breakfast at Empire Hotel’s Atrium Café before the transfer to JPCC
0945 First meeting session. Snacks and beverages will be served throughout the day
1215 An exquisite lunch will be served at Royal Berkshire
1400 Second meeting session
1600 Time for a break and watch a polo match
1800 Transfer back to the hotel
1900 Welcome theme dinner at Empire Hotel’s Grand Ballroom
0800 Breakfast at the hotel
1100 Check out and prepare for departure
Royal Brunei Airlines flies to more than 20 major cities in Asia Pacific, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe via London and Frankfurt. Other airlines with regular flights to Brunei include Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Philippines Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and Dragonair on a code-share basis.
Light clothing is in order with temperature generally warm and humid, ranging between 24C and 33C all year round.
Malay is the official language but English is widely used. Other languages include Mandarin and other Chinese dialects as well as indigenous dialects of Borneo.
Citizens of most countries can enter Brunei without visas for stays of 14 to 30 days. US nationals get in visa-free for up to three-months’ stay. For the latest entry regulations, visit Brunei’s foreign ministry website www.mfa.gov.bn/visainformation/visaarrangements.htm
Contact Brunei Tourism at email@example.com
Cultural sensitivity will go a long way in getting along splendidly with your host:
• Dress modestly: Clothing comfortably for hot weather is acceptable, except when visiting places of worship or for social and business functions.
• Have a light touch: Bruneians shake hands by lightly touching the hands and then bringing the hand to the chest. Some people do not to shake hands with members of the opposite sex.
• Avoid pointing: You should not point with your finger; instead, use the thumb of your right hand with the four fingers folded beneath it.
• Religious protocol: Take shoes off when visiting a mosque. Women should ensure that their head, knees and arms are sufficiently covered. Do not touch the Koran and do not walk in front of a person in prayer. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain food from sunrise to sundown. It would be inconsiderate for visitors to eat or drink in their presence during this period.
• Gift-giving: Gifts (particularly food) should only be passed with the right hand, although it is acceptable to use the left hand to support the right wrist.
• Drink sensibly: In deference to the Muslim majority, alcohol is not sold in Brunei, but non-Muslim tourists are allowed to bring two bottles of alcohol (wine, spirits, etc) and 12 cans of beer per entry. It is advised that guests should consume alcohol with sensible discretion in hotels and some restaurants.
GOOD MILES BRUNEI
Contact: Grace Virly, manager, MICE Division
TOURS & TRAVEL
Contact: Anthony Chieng, managing director