New charter flights move Chinese visitors beyond Bali

Manado Tua is an inactive volcanic cone island off the west coast of North Sulawesi, close to the capital Manado

FOLLOWING calls from the government to spread Chinese tourist footfalls beyond Bali, Indonesian airlines have opened up routes between China and Manado through charter services.

Lion Air launched flights between Macau and Manado on July 4, followed by a Shanghai-Manado flight on July 12. Moving forward, the carrier plans to connect Manado with Shenzhen, Chongqing, Wuhan and Changsha.

Rusdi Kirana, CEO of Lion Air Group, said: “By December 2016, we project that 30,000 travellers from China will enter Manado.”

Earlier this week, Citilink Indonesia started charter services between Hong Kong and Manado.

Hans Nugroho, commercial director of Citilink, said: “We see that travellers from China are keen to visit Indonesia. By starting the service we hope that more travellers will visit (North Sulawesi).”

Apart from Bali and Raja Ampat in West Papua, Hans added that Manado and the dive spots around Bunaken are now coming onto the radar of Chinese tourists. He expects Citilink to bring 3,000 passengers to the destination by end-August.

Aside from Lion Air and Citilink Indonesia, Sriwijaya Air also operates charter services between Guangzhou and Manado.

Indonesia’s minister of tourism Arief Yahya welcomed these initiatives, but urged industry stakeholders to create products that can sustain these charter services.

He elaborated: “Please (plan) the attractions and the (facilities) provided for these tourists while they are in (the destination). Don’t let them down and go home with bad memories.”

Making available sizeable Chinese restaurants, day spas with ample treatment rooms and souvenir shops with local products will put Manado in good stead to meet the needs of Chinese travellers, advised Bambang Sugiono, director of Gajah Bali Tour and a China specialist.

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