Idyllic Brunei

Brunei may be a nation of modest proportions, but the oil-rich country is forging a distinct identity as an attractive business events destination, able to hold its own, particularly within the culturally diverse Southeast Asia region.

In spite of a small land area spanning only a total of 5,770 sq km, the sultanate boasts a treasure trove of primary rainforests that have driven naturalists to ecstasy with their Eden-like attributes. With strict regulation, Brunei has deftly sidestepped the trap that many countries have fallen into – that of decimating their precious green canopy in the name of progress and tourism dollars.

Preserving the natural habitat not only benefits the thousands of species of flora and fauna, it also helps preserve the cultural narrative and customs of the local communities which have built their lives within and around the forests for hundreds of years.

Now, in the quest for recognition as a business events hub, Brunei has been drawing increasingly on its natural and human assets, discovering that they provide rich inspiration for themed gatherings held in the sultanate.

Local colour

The SEANET 2011 Convention, held by the Brunei Amateur Radio Association, provided participants an exciting excursion in conjunction with its convention. The five-day event, held in November last year at the Rizqun International Hotel, attracted 81 delegates  – from Australia, Austria, China, Germany, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Serbia, Switzerland, Malaysia and the US. attended the five-day conference. The aim – to showcase new information, ideas and technical advancements in the field, as well as provide a networking opportunity for amateur radio enthusiasts. A bonus for the visitors was the generous heaping of Bruneian hospitality experienced throughout the event.

The convention was held on the opening day and the sightseeing began on the second, when the delegates were taken to Kampong Ayer, the world-famous Water Village, to catch a glimpse of local folk culture and music. The next day, the delegates embarked on a water-borne journey to Ulu Temburong National Park, which occupies almost 40 per cent of the Temburong district of Brunei. After an hour-long boat ride, they arrived at the Sumbiling Eco Village for a short morning tea, before embarking in long-tail boats for a thrilling river ride upstream. Helmed by skilled boatmen, the delegates raced through shallow rapids and choppy waters past towering trees to reach the park.

Their adventure didn’t stop there. Organisers added a team-building element to spice up the day, requiring the group to ascend 1,200 steps up to the Canopy Walkway.

Resorts also capitalise on their location to attract event planners. For instance, the Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort presents companies with a range of meeting facilities, while positioning itself as a destination that holds meetings and conferences “in the middle of the rainforest”. The resort boasts five function rooms, representing a total of 1,788 sqm of area space. Its largest function room, the Lambir Hall, covers 1,350 sqm and can accommodate up to 700 delegates for sit-down banquet and 1,250 delegates for cocktails.

The Ulu Ulu National Park Resort is another option for companies to consider. Situated deep in the Ulu Temburong National Park Rainforest, it offers team-building programmes that include trekking to a waterfall, nocturnal walks, swimming and kayaking. It is just two hours away from Brunei International Airport.

More importantly, delegates, who opt to stay over at the resort, can take their eco-friendly efforts a step further by disengaging themselves from the digital world. The resort offers no mobile reception, internet or TV, both in the name of being green and to create “an environment of zero distractions”.  In addition, plastic bottles are banned on the premises, and to make up for this, visitors are provided with stainless-steel bottles, which they can fill up with filtered water and even take away as souvenirs of a very unusual stay.

Coming into focus

In recent years, event planners have changed their perceptions of the oil-rich sultanate as a business events destination.

Leslie Chiang, managing director of Borneo Guide, comments: “We believe organisers are slowly starting to grasp the appeal of Brunei, and are now able to differentiate it in a favourable light.”

Brunei Tourism’s tourism officer, Salinah Salleh notes: “Our focus is on regional markets rather than long-haul segment. There has been healthy growth in government meetings as well as regular Asean regional meetings.”

The past five years have seen a growth in the events sector for Brunei, but the country is not without its challenges. “One of the biggest challenges the industry is facing is the axing of flights to Australia and New Zealand, which were half of the ‘kangaroo route’ to London,” says Chiang.

“These flights stopping over in Brunei were a big source of tourist numbers. With these now depleted, the industry is now adjusting to the new realities, identifying and working with new target markets, in particular the East Asia and Middle Eastern sectors. The difficulty in attracting the East Asian countries is the fact that what we have to offer can be quite similar to what they already have at home,” he adds.

But according to Chiang, 2011 was a productive year for them. “There was a stronger focus on three market segments: the trans-Borneo independent travellers, the local corporate incentives and team-building market, and also local international schools, catering for overnight rainforest and outdoor programmes both in Brunei and its next-
door neighbours.”

Chiang concludes: “This will indeed be a big challenge, especially in the face of stiff price competition from counties with weaker currencies, as well as the prevailing misconceptions about Brunei and what it has to offer. But we are confident that with the right marketing, and through word of mouth from the personal experiences of satisfied visitors, that we will achieve this aim in the next year or two.”

"Brunei has deftly sidestepped the trap many countries have fallen into – that of decimating their precious green canopy in the name of progress”

Fast Facts


Passengers from Kuala Lumpur can get to Brunei via AirAsia in slightly under 2.5 hours. Other airlines that fly to Brunei are Cebu Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines (through Silk Air codeshare), and Royal Brunei Airlines. Royal Brunei flies to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Singapore, Surabaya, Kota Kinabalu, Manila, Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Melbourne, London, Dubai and Jeddah.


Temperatures can range from 23?C to 32?C.


A 72-hour transit visa is issued on arrival to all nationalities except for Israeli passport holders.


Official language is Brunei Malay, but English is widely spoken.

Contact: Brunei Tourism

Tel: +673 238 28 22



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