Belitung readies for time in the international tourism spotlight

The man-made Lake Kaolin in Belitung

After years of receiving mostly domestic tourists, Belitung is now getting ready to make its mark in the international travel community, with its first regency tourism board and destination branding in the works as well as new direct flights from Singapore.

Data released by Belitung Tourism Office showed there were a total 380,941 arrivals in 2017, comprising of 371,338 domestic visitors and 9,603 foreign visitors. This was an increase over 2016, when 292,885 visitors arrived in Belitung, 285,773 domestic and 7,112 foreign visitors.

The man-made Lake Kaolin in Belitung

Isyak Meirobie, the newly appointed deputy regent of Belitung told TTG Asia: “We are trying to promote Belitung as a holiday destination to grow visitor arrivals. I’m planning to form the Belitung Tourism Board which will be responsible for destination promotion.”

He also intends to get the destination ready for tourists by standardising tourism boats often used for island hopping, in addition to working on visitor-friendly facilities such as hospitals, land transportation and smart city digital capabilities.

Meanwhile in the private sector, the Belitung Chapter of the Association of the Indonesian tours and travel Agencies (ASITA) is stepping up regional promotions.

Karmila Santy, chairman of ASITA Belitung Chapter, said the association was conducting more sales missions, attending trade shows as well as organising fam trips for international agents and media.

Karmila lauded Garuda Indonesia’s recent launch of Singapore-Belitung flights. So far, visitors considering Belitung have ended up opting for other destinations as access to the former had to be through Jakarta, Batam, Pangkal Pinang and other gateway cities.

“Thankfully, now there is direct Singapore-Belitung flights by Garuda Indonesia. This gives us great hope with Singapore and Malaysia still the biggest (potential) markets for Belitung,” said Karmila.

Since last year, ASITA Belitung has been actively selling to the Singapore market. ASITA also held a sales mission several times to Singapore to offer Belitung.

Karmila explained: “In future, we want to develop Chinese tourists. Belitung is in accordance with the characteristics of Chinese tourists who like the beach, and Singaporean who want to relax at the weekend.”

Yudianto Evan Setiawan, director of the Billitonesia Tour, has seen growing interest from niche segments such as scientist and geopark adventure tourists.

“The government efforts to register the Belitung geopark (for UNESCO consideration) received a good response from adventure tourists. We also see a lot of scientists who are interested in coming to research the nature of Belitung,” he continued.

Up to now, however, he admitted that Belitung’s potentials have been latent, being constrained by infrastructure and lack of creativity in packaging tours.

Yudianto added: “Belitung has 200 islands, and most of them have not been explored. So tourism potential is still large, and tourists should not be bored because there are always new islands and attractions to be explored, including geoparks for nature and adventure seekers.”

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