I was at a meeting yesterday discussing the next Hassanal Bolkiah Asean Youth Football Tournament (HBT) to be held sometime next year. This tournament was initiated as part of His Majesty's efforts to bring the youths of ASEAN countries together through football and is the only one in the region to do so. It was meant to be a biennial affair and kicked off in August 2002. However the second HBT was not held in 2004 but in March 2005 instead and now the third HBT to be held sometime next year. At the last tournament the government spent some $1 million in direct and indirect costs.
Costs are one thing. It's a worthwhile effort if there are benefits, in this case there are, though very much intangible ones. Other than the usual harmonious relationship, introducing Brunei etc, there are some benefits to our local tourism industry such as hotels etc. The only problem seemed to be sustaining this so called 'sports tourism' for it to continuously bring in the benefits to our country.
We have some of the more interesting sports facility here in the region. For the information of non-golfers, the Royal Brunei Golf and Country Club (RBGCC) at Jerudong is known among golfers as the Augusta of Asia. Augusta is one of the well known course in USA where the American Masters are played. The Brunei one is a tough and challenging course and the last time I played there, I did not even want to count the number of balls I lost. It was in the region of three boxes, I think, though since I used second hand balls, it was more like three plastic bags. Enthuasiastic golfers around the region have been making a beeline to RBGCC just for the challenge. We also have other facilities such as our watersports.
I remembered SJ, our Tourism head honcho saying in the past that Brunei is making a bid to raise its profile by hosting international sporting events such as the South East Asian Games, the World Badminton Championships and the World Shooting Championships. We had the Brunei Open Golf tournament and the Brunei Marathon as well earlier in the year. All these do cost a fair bit to run but in the long run, if it brings in the tangible benefits to our tourism industry, it will be money well spent. What I am afraid of is that we spend the money but no benefit come our way. All we would have are sportsmen coming to Brunei to get the prize money and say thank you very much for your generousity, and we hope to come back again the next time you hold the tournament to get more money.
To make sports tourism a success, need sustainability and the promotion that goes with it that we seemed not to have. We need to have consistency so that sportsmen and athletes from outside would know way in advance that they will coming to Brunei. How many people realised that the Brunei Marathon will be held again this year in December? Promotion, promotion, promotion. That way we can have the international coverage as they would know this is a yearly event and they can put it in their calendar. The international sponsors would also know in advance which event to sponsor and we would have to rely less on our own funding. Once we are established in that calendar, it will be easier to get the tourists in. They know when certain things are happenning and can plan way ahead. All these require effort and need to be coordinated. At the moment, each of the event are run individually and are held more or less at the convenience of each organisers. SJ, what say you?
photo credit: www.bruneimarathon.com gallery