The new Singapore-Riau Safe Travel Bubble has brought relief to hoteliers in resort island Bintan, who has seen business devastated by the pandemic and resultant travel restrictions, with many reporting a wave of enquiries from eager travellers since the announcement on Monday.
Banyan Tree Group, which operates Banyan Tree Bintan, Angsana Bintan and Cassia Bintan within the Laguna Bintan integrated resort, is fielding enquiries from a mix of leisure travellers, travel agents and corporate groups.
Alpha Eldiansyah, general manager of the trio of properties, told TTG Asia: “The announcement has stirred up much interest and anticipation from our Singapore guests, who are keen to know as much as possible about the travel requirements… Some of them have even said that they will be on the first ferry to Laguna Bintan once the bubble begins!”
Greg Williams, general manager of The Sanchaya, Bintan, said the travel bubble has allowed the luxury property to take “another step closer to where we would like to be with commencement of Singapore tourism returning to Bintan”.
The reopening of the Riau islands, for now limited to Bintan and Batam, has been highly anticipated by tourism operators in the Lagoi area – the approved area for travellers entering via the Singapore-Riau Safe Travel Bubble. Preparation for reopening has been underway long before the official announcement, hoteliers told TTG Asia.
Yanuwar Dedy Setyawan, regional general manager for Kamuela Lagoi Bay Villas, said work started last year, under the guidance of Archipelago International (hotel operator), Bintan Resort Council, and both national and local government bodies. Staff training and exchange of know-how in fulfilling new traveller and guest requirements were among the preparation activities.
Over at Laguna Bintan, the resorts implemented Banyan Tree Group’s proprietary global SafeSanctuary health and well-being protocols as soon as border closures set in. The resorts, along with Laguna Golf Bintan, have obtained a number of key international and local health and safety certifications during this period, such as CovSafeSG which is in compliance with Singapore’s own SG Clean standards.
Laguna Bintan employees are fully vaccinated, and a booster exercise is being rolled out now.
“The team has undergone rigorous trainings for necessary health and safety protocols as part of certification processes. These new standards are being reinforced for our domestic guests on a daily basis, even as we anticipate Singapore’s return,” Alpha said.
The Sanchaya, Bintan was able to demonstrate its readiness for international guests when it hosted the 5th Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat earlier this week. The high-profile meeting was attended by Indonesia president Joko Widodo and Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.
In response to renewed interest in Bintan as a tourist destination, Bintan Beach International Resorts is planning a seminar for Singapore travel trade partners to provide updates on travel bubble protocol, revealed representative Abdul Wahab.
While Yanuwar said the Singapore-Riau Safe Travel Bubble would not spur immediate bookings, the development could instil traveller confidence in Bintan as a safe tourist destination.
He expects Bintan’s tourism recovery to progress in stages, and his usual markets – couples and families for leisure as well as corporate retreats – will eventually return.
On the other hand, Alpha is confident that Bintan’s pre-pandemic appeal to the Singapore market will lead the way to a strong rebound over the next three months.
“With Bintan being less than an hour away by ferry, it has always been an attractive getaway destination for our guests from Singapore,” he said.
Alpha also hopes that international visitors from countries such as China, Germany and the US would benefit from Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lanes and take a Singapore-Bintan getaway as they used to do.
Pre-pandemic, guests at Laguna Bintan were mostly Singapore residents and international travellers who paired their Singapore city holiday with a beach retreat in Bintan. The integrated resort also welcomed many business events, including teambuilding retreats, incentive dinners and golf tournaments.
“I am confident we will begin to see signs of more international recovery as countries emerge from the current Omicron wave and resume travelling,” said Alpha.
Williams is cautious with his outlook, stating that the seven-day home quarantine in Singapore for returning residents could put a damper on booking potential. For a proper recovery, he said the quarantine must be reconsidered or have the duration reduced. – Additional reporting by Karen Yue