BRISBANE, 15 April 2019: A protest on the doorstep of Brisbane’s Royal on the Park Hotel owned by a subsidiary of Brunei Investment Agency, got underway at the weekend suggesting the #BruneiBoycott campaign could reach hotels in Bali and Singapore.
In addition to the Brisbane property, Brunei owns three hotels in Southeast Asia — the Nusa Dua Beach Resort and Spa and two properties in Singapore; Grand Hyatt Singapore and Royal Plaza on Scotts.
The protest outside the Brisbane hotel, 13 April, was the latest extension of a broader campaign playing out in North America and Europe under the tagline #BruneiBoycott.
“Large organisations like Amnesty and groups of people across the world are focusing in on Brunei, so we’re part of that,” Labour senator for Queensland Claire Moore told SBS News during the rally on Saturday.
In Southeast Asia, Nusa Dua Beach Resort and Spa, a popular choice for Australians visiting Bali, stands to lose bookings as the protest against new harsh punishments for sex-related offences including gay sex and adultery gains momentum.
Homosexuality has always been illegal in Brunei, but earlier this month strict new Syariah laws came into effect, making gay sex an offence along with adultery punishable by stoning to death.
Protesters say the objective is to embarrass and pressure Brunei through its overseas commercial interests to force a review of its draconian penal code and punishments.
Australian protesters say they are hoping to force Civil Aviation authorities to ban Royal Brunei Airlines from entering Australian airspace and to pressure the government to suspend diplomatic relations with Brunei.
Earlier this month, a fact check on three popular hotels in Southeast Asia indicated Sejahtera Indoco PT, a subsidiary of BIA in Indonesia, owns Nusa Dua Beach Resort and Spa.
Grand Hyatt Singapore is owned by Borneo Properties, which in turn is a subsidiary of Brunei Investment Agency, while Royal Plaza on Scotts is owned by the BIA firm Sejahtera Investments (Singapore) Pte Ltd.
Spokespersons for the two properties in Singapore confirmed ownership details, while Nusa Dua Beach Resort and Spa ignored all email requests.
The hotels are unlikely to face placard-carrying protesters in either Bali or Singapore, but they could suffer a booking pushback from some key markets in North America and Europe despite efforts to distance themselves from the controversy.
The main thrust of the campaign focuses on boycotting the Dorchester Collection, while in Asia it is likely to raise pressure on the annual premier travel trade event, the ASEAN Tourism Forum, which will be hosted by Brunei 12 to 16 January 2020.
There is already evidence of pushback on the part of some sellers (companies that exhibit at the trade show component of the ATF) and international tour operators who are fully hosted by Brunei. The free junket includes hotel accommodation and roundtrip airfares. Around 300 tour wholesalers are likely to receive invitations while close to 400 tour and hospitality companies based in the ASEAN region will buy exhibition space and attend the show to meet the hosted tour operators.
ATF usually attracts 1,500 executives and top tourism officials for the weeklong event considered the tourism showcase for the 10-member countries of ASEAN.
Despite putting a brave face on promotions, the organisers will face a tough challenge to convince international tour operators to take up the hosted trip offer for fear of a backlash from the #bruneiboycott campaigners. Protesters would probably “name and shame” internationally recognised travel firms guilty of accepting all-expenses-paid invites to attend the show in Brunei.
For more information see earlier report: Hotels dodge Brunei Boycott