ATF: Indonesia warms to Singapore hub role

HALONG BAY, Vietnam, 21 January 2018: Indonesia’s Tourism Minister, Arief Yahya, has acknowledged that Singapore has grown to become a prominent transport and tourism hub that can boost travel to Indonesia.

On the sidelines of ministerial meetings during the ASEAN Tourism Forum hosted in Halong Bay, last week, the minister discussed how to benefit from Singapore’s gateway status with officials from the Singapore Tourism Board according to a report in Antara News.

Talks focused on Singapore ‘s aviation links, its role as a cruise hub to boost travel to Indonesia and possible investment opportunities in what Indonesia calls its “10 New Balis” destinations that have the potential emulate the success of Bali.

Last year, Indonesia promoted travel deals to attract more international tourists to visit Riau Islands, particularly Batam and Bintan that are served by ferries from Singapore. The trip takes just 45 minutes from Singapore.

Response to the campaign was mixed, but according to Antara News 700,000 holiday packages were sold over three months. It was not clear how many of the packages were actually sold to Singaporeans and foreign travellers from third countries such as China and India.

This year the “Hot Deals” could sell as many as 1 million packages.

The “Hot Deals” focused on weekday travel, offering 60% discount to Singapore residents to encourage them to buy Batam and Bintan holiday packages

The challenge for Batam and Bintan is to match the competitive packages sold to other island destinations such as Phuket in Thailand, served by daily low-cost flights from Singapore.

Singapore importance to Indonesia’s tourism cannot be overstated. It serves as a major aviation gateway to Bali and other tourist destinations surpassing the importance of Jakarta for international visitors, who fly to Singapore and transfer to flights heading for Indonesia. Journey durations are shorter via Singapore and fares lower.

Indonesia’s tourism minister hoped to secure support from STB, but exploiting Singapore’s gateway status would also require strong cooperation from outbound travel agents in Singapore.

Talks also focused on Indonesia’s Lake Toba in north Sumatra and Belitung in Bangka Belitung, both served by direct flights from Singapore.  Travel to Lake Toba has the potential to be a major tourist destination on par with Bali’s Ubud, but success would depend on the expansion of airline services from aviation gateways such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

In the past tourism policies focused on developing Jakarta as the gateway to Indonesia’s vast variety of underdeveloped and poorly promoted tourist destinations.

However, following the adoption of the “10 Bali” project policy makers have now recognised success will also depend on tapping the Singapore gateway that has more airline routes from Europe, North Asia and North America.