Hopes are high that Belitung will soon join the ranks of Bintan to become a getaway destination for Singapore travellers, with Garuda Indonesia’s newly launched service linking the Lion City to the east Sumatran island.
On October 29, the Indonesian flag carrier commenced four-times-weekly services between Singapore and Tanjung Pandan in Belitung, operated with a Bombardier CRJ 1000 aircraft.
Over the last three years, Belitung has emerged as hot destination for locals, with domestic tourism driving tourism growth of over 25 per cent.
Arief Yahya, Indonesia’s tourism minister, said that scheduled flights to Belitung could unlock greater tourism growth and investment, especially given that infrastructure is already “very good and continues to be developed”, coupled with the “extraordinary natural and cultural potential” in the destination.
Pikri Ilham Kurniansyah, Garuda Indonesia commercial director, said: “Belitung could be an alternative to those who are already bored with Bintan. With a less-than-an-hour direct flight from Singapore, Belitung is a perfect short getaway destination.”
He added: “This (new service) is just the beginning. If the demand increases, (there is potential of it becoming) a daily flight.”
The new flight is lifting hopes of Belitung’s ascent to the international stage among the destination’s tourism stakeholders.
Karmila Santy, chairman of the Association of The Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA) Belitung Chapter, added: “What we have long dreamed of has finally been realised. Last year we collaborated with the government to organise a charter flight with Sriwijaya Air. From this charter flight, a network was formed, and the market also began to realise that there’s a new destination (option). But the charter is no longer running and we lost the market.
“This Garuda service going to convince people to take a vacation to Belitung.”
In the near future, ASITA Belitung Chapter plans to conduct a sales mission in Singapore as part of efforts to attract more international visitors.
Karmila also hopes that the Garuda Indonesia flight will spark the development of flight connectivity to Belitung by encouraging more airlines to open routes from other countries. “Hopefully it can be from Malaysia, China and others.”
Sharing Karmila’s enthusiasm is Fhia LF, director of Belitung Archipelago, who made a sales call to Singapore with a few other agents following Garuda Indonesia’s announcement of the inaugural service on October 29.
“We directly contacted clients in Singapore and are actively promoting Belitung. Our mission is to introduce Belitung, so that people know that (this) beautiful destination exists.”
With greater awareness of the destination, visitors “will come”, she foresees.
Meanwhile, Arief shared that the Ministry of Tourism will provide promotional support for airlines or entrepreneurs looking to bring international visitors to Belitung.