Homestay programmes attract tourists to Brunei

Homestay programmes attract tourists to Brunei
PHOTO: Brunei Times/ANN

The growing popularity of homestay programmes is helping to boost the country's tourism industry.

Entrepreneurs interviewed by The Brunei Times said online sites that featured Brunei's homestay programmes have encouraged foreign tourists to come to the country.

Two homestay programmes in particular, Kg Sungai Matan Homestay and Baitul Wajihah Homestay in Kampung Wasan, are getting a lot of attention from tourists who want to know more about Bruneian culture.

Kg Sungai Matan, a fishing village in Mukim Kota Batu, has been gaining attention from both local and foreign tourists since its residents started offering homestays in 2007. The homestay progamme also received a Bronze Award at the 2012 Excellence Village Awards.

According to village chief Pg Hj Abdul Rahman Pg Hj Zainal, their homestay programme have hosted as much as 70 visitors at a time. This is over three times more than the usual 20 visitors that the programme can accomodate. He said the village is hosting a growing number of visitors from Thailand, the Philippines, China and the US.

"People from other countries want to get first hand experience of the culture and way of life here in Brunei," he said.

Pg Hj Abdul Rahman said they let tourists experience the villagers' way of life by getting them involved in activities like kite making and preparing local food such as the ambuyat. Tourists also get the chance to go fishing at the Brunei river by using traditional fishing tools such as the cast net and bintur - a lift net of bamboo and netting used to catch crabs.

He said social media sites "played a major role in attracting more visitors".

"Visitors tell us that they've seen videos on YouTube promoting Kg Sg Matan and were immediately interested in coming to experience a day in the life of a fisherman in Brunei," he said.

The village consultative council is actively promoting the homestay programme overseas by joining regional roadshows such as the one recently held in Kuala Lumpur. It also lauched the Matan River Cruise so that tourists can board the village's new fibreglass boat and cruise along the Brunei River passing the Kg Sungai Bunga, the Brunei Museum and Kg Bolkiah.

Hj Muslin Hj Salim, owner of Baitul Wajihah Homestay, said he has hosted over 5,000 guests since he launched his business in 2009. Most of her guests came from Europe and ASEAN countries.

Guests at the Baitul Wajihah Homestay can go on trips to padi fields and learn about traditional crafts like basket weaving and making ketupat.

Hj Muslin also bring his guests to the Sultanate's tourist spots including Kampong Ayer, Jame' 'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and the Yayasan Shopping Complex.

Hj Muslin said the homestay's inclusion on the TripAdvisor website in 2012 has brought in more guests.

"Just being on TripAdvisor helped (us in encouraging) people to notice our facility," he said.

He said the homestay has 19 positive reviews at TripAdvisor, which helped him in getting more clients.

Apart from showcasing Bruneian culture to foreign tourists, Hj Muslin said Baitul Wajihah Homestay also aims to preserve the country's culture and tradition. He's encouraging local youth to join the programme.

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