New infrastructure developments to lift status of South Kalimantan as tourism destination

South Kalimantan has upgraded facilities at Syamsudin Noor airport in Banjarmasin to raise its status from a domestic to an international airport, as the local government looks to boost foreign and domestic arrivals.

President Joko Widodo is expected to inaugurate the Syamsudin Noor International Airport on November 20, according to Dahnial Kifli, the head of the province’s tourism agency in Jakarta.

A series of infrastructure enhancement projects across South Kalimantan is aimed at increasing the destination attractiveness; Menara Pandang Banjarmasin in Banjarmasin City pictured

The expanded 77,569m² terminal will be able to accommodate seven million passengers a year – five times more the capacity of the old terminal – featuring eco-friendly design with plenty of open-air spaces.

Eyeing inbound growth, Dahnial believes that the airport will start serving international routes after it officially becomes an international airport, on the back of an enlarged runway and bigger apron in the new terminal to accommodate larger aircraft.

“We have approached AirAsia to talk about the opportunity to open a direct flight from neighbouring countries to South Kalimantan,” he said, adding that the international routes would benefit foreign tourists as they did not need to transit in Jakarta or other major cities in Java en-route to South Kalimantan.

Dahnial said that the local government would also construct Samudra port in Tanah Bambu regency to improve accessibility to North Penajem Paser and Kutai Kartanegara, two regencies in East Kalimantan that the president has named as potential sites of Indonesia’s new capital. He added that the new port would have the capacity to accommodate cruise ships and big vessels.

Furthermore, the infrastructure development projects launched across the province is part of the regional government’s efforts to develop tourism to reduce reliance on the mining sector, said South Kalimantan vice governor Rudy Resnawan.

The mining sector currently contributes 31 per cent of total regional revenue (PAD) while tourism makes up around 20 per cent. The regional government has set an ambitious target for tourism to contribute to almost 60 per cent of PAD in the coming years.

Rudy added that South Kalimantan will focus on creating more tourist attractions. “We will turn former mining sites into tourist spots,” he said, citing Pengaron Blue Lake in Banjar Regency as an example.

Rudy said he would step up promotion efforts to woo foreign tourists as well as provide incentives and ease licensing processes to lure investors. “Our major goal is to make South Kalimantan a national major tourist destination,” he said.

Fachrul Rezani, owner of Putera Mandiri Wisata Tour, said that the vice governor’s idea to transform former mining sites into tourist destinations sounded promising. For example, Seran Lake and Galuh Cempaka Lake, which were previously mining company Galuh Cempaka’s open-pit diamond mine, are popular tourist attractions today.

After becoming an international airport, Fachrul expects Syamsudin Noor to have direct routes that connect the province with neighbouring countries, especially Malaysia, Brunei, and Thailand. He believes that the routes will further grow inbound traffic from these countries, which are currently major source markets for South Kalimantan.

“Tourists from Malaysia and Southern Thailand usually come to South Kalimantan on pilgrimages. They like to visit the cemeteries of Muslim figures, such as Syekh Muhammad Arsyad al-Banjari who wrote Sabilal Muhtadin. This book is taught at schools and universities in Malaysia and Southern Thailand,” he said.

Fachrul also expects South Kalimantan to build a convention centre soon because the province recently hosted multiple large-scale business events, including City Sanitation Summit in September.

He hoped that facilities and amenities in South Kalimantan would be fully ready by the time North Penajem Pasar and Kutai Kertanegara in East Kalimantan officially becomes the country’s administration centre.

“Now there is already a new road that connects Batulicin in South Kalimantan and North Penajem Paser in East Kalimantan. This road cuts travel time from 10 hours to about four hours,” he said.

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