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Borneo aviation: tourism on the rise, growth for Malaysia and Brunei

The Southeast Asian island of Borneo has emerged as a popular tourist destination, particularly in the expanding ecotourism sector. Borneo, which is shared by Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, now attracts more than 2 million international visitors per annum (visitors from outside these three countries).

International passenger traffic to/from Borneo increased by more than 10% in 2018, to approximately 6 million. Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia are the main international airports and are growing rapidly, driven primarily by China and other North Asian source markets. 

International passenger traffic at Kota Kinabalu increased by 11% in 2018 and another year of double digit growth is likely in 2019 given the capacity increases experienced so far this year. Smaller Brunei also expects double digit passenger growth in 2019 driven by rapid expansion by Royal Brunei Airlines. International seat capacity at Bandar Seri Begawan is projected to increase by around 20% this year compared to 2018.

Royal Brunei Airlines has adopted an extended home market strategy with the objective of improving connectivity within Borneo, enabling visitors to combine different parts of the island in a single itinerary. The airline launched services to Kuching at the end of 2018, giving it two destinations within Borneo along with Kota Kinabalu, and is planning to add five new secondary destinations in Borneo by the end of 2019 using a new fleet of two wet-leased ATR 72s.

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