The travel industry in Belitung Island is optimistic that AirAsia’s recently-announced service connecting the island to Kuala Lumpur will boost tourism to the Indonesian island paradise off the east coast of Sumatra, following its recent loss of a direct international connection from Singapore.
AirAsia’s direct Belitung-Kuala Lumpur service will launch on October 2, operating four times a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday using a 186-seat Airbus A320 jet.
The flight will depart from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 11:05 and land at H.A.S. Hanandjoeddin International Airport in Tanjung Pandan, Bangka Belitung, at 11:45. It will leave Belitung at 12:10 and arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 14:45.
AirAsia regional commercial head Amando Woo said in a statement: “Indonesia has more to offer than just Bali and Lombok. Belitung is a beautiful, amazing place with huge untapped tourism potential. We hope that with this new direct service, more and more people will be able to discover this hidden gem. The new route is also a testament to our firm commitment to support the Indonesian government in its efforts to develop 10 new priority tourism destinations.”
AirAsia was not the first airline to link Belitung and Malaysia though, according to Yudianto Evan Setiawan, owner of Bilitonesia Tour & Travel and Bangka Belitung chapter vice chairman of the Association of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA). A Sriwijaya Air plane was chartered two years ago to fly tourists from Belitung to Kuala Lumpur, and vice versa.
However, despite Belitung’s attractiveness, the island has previously drawn few visitors from Malaysia due to the costs involved in getting there, as travellers first have to transit in Jakarta, Yudianto stated.
But AirAsia’s under-an-hour, direct connection from Kuala Lumpur will now increase the appeal for Belitung, Yudianto said, adding that ASITA association members would push out more packages that showcase not only natural beauties like the Lengkuas Island, but also cultural attractions such as the Tanjung Kelayang Festival.
“Our target is not only Malaysian tourists. Kuala Lumpur is an international hub of AirAsia, so we expect more foreign tourists from other countries to visit Belitung through Malaysia,” Yudianto said.
He added: “What tourists look to do in Belitung is usually island hopping. However, we have many new tourist destinations that they might not know about. Hopefully, next year, Belitung could be declared as a UNESCO Global Geopark.”
Also welcoming AirAsia’s new Belitung service is Agus Suyatna, general manager of Hotel Santika Premiere Beach Resort Belitung, who noted that the absence of direct flights from Malaysia was a challenge in attracting foreign visitors.
Agus added that the hotel is already anticipating increased tourist footfall from this upcoming service by “preparing attractive packages, including hotel promotions such as special prices, cashbacks and bonuses”.