Brunei should leverage on ecotourism in East Malaysia to create joint packages that could promote local natural sites as stopovers for tourists that travel between Sabah and Sarawak.
"There are interesting natural sites in parts of Sarawak that are near the Brunei border, Mulu in particular and even the Niah caves in Bintulu which is not too far from Brunei," said Professor Victor T King, currently a distinguished follow at Universiti Brunei Darussalam's Institute of Asian Studies who has co-edited three books on tourism development, including Tourism in Southeast Asia: Challenges and New Directions (2009).
He said tourists can go through Brunei to visit natural sites such as Tasek Merimbun, an ASEAN Heritage Park as well as other natural attractions such as proboscis monkeys on the riversides and Temburong's ecological attractions which are all of great interest to tourists.
"After that, they can be taken to Sabah, to Mount Kinabalu or Ranau, up in North Borneo," he said.
To further promote these eco-tourism locations, King said that World Heritage Status from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) should be pursued.
"This gives them (the locations) a higher profile. If you have a UNESCO site, it's a bigger attraction," he said, due to the increased level of promotion.
He said that UNESCO World Heritage Status for ecological sites is possible because there are controlled, management structures in place. "You have to demonstrate you can conserve and protect the site in management terms," he said.
King had previously suggested Ulu Temburong National Park and Tasek Merimbun to be put forward as nominees for UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in an interview with DiscoverUBD magazine, arguing that there is a strong potential for these sites to be included in the list.
He had also suggested Kg Ayer, but said that the case to inscribe it as a World Heritage Site would be more difficult.
"With Kg Ayer, people work there and commute to the main land so there is a lot of mobility. There is also some modernisation and new housing to replace houses lost due to fire or other reasons, which greatly diminishes the heritage value," he said.
"In terms of management, it is a difficult site to qualify as a heritage site.
"Also, if given heritage status, UNESCO will prevent you from doing certain things to the site. If there are people living there, they would not be able to do things such as building something new in their houses, because it is a heritage site," he added. "Instead you have valuable ecosystems and ecological sites which would have a better case for world heritage status."