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Hotels, businesses in Bintan and Batam welcome travel bubble with Singapore, hope details will be finalised soon

JAKARTA: Hotels and businesses in Bintan and Batam are looking forward to receiving visitors from Singapore under the newly announced travel bubble, two years after COVID-19 disrupted international tourism. 

“We are excited because this will be the first travel bubble (in Indonesia),” said Mr David Tambunan, sales and marketing director of five-star hotel Natra Bintan.

“There will be more visitors, the borders will be opened, so we think it will be merrier here,” he added.

The quarantine travel corridor was announced by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto on Monday (Jan 24). 

People can enter Lagoi in Bintan and Nongsa in Batam from Singapore via ferry terminals, but they are not allowed to leave for other parts of the two islands. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bintan and Batam were popular tourist destinations for visitors from Singapore, who accounted for the bulk of the hotel occupancy.

Shortly after the travel corridor was announced, Club Med Bintan saw a surge in its website traffic, according to its senior vice president for commercial Southeast Asia and marketing Asia Pacific Vincent Ong.

“There is huge interest both from Singaporeans as well as residents residing in Singapore to be able to return to the excitement that Bintan offers to families, couples and groups of friends," he said.

General manager of Banyan Tree Bintan Alpha Eldiansyah, who is also responsible for Angsana Bintan Resort and Cassia Bintan, welcomed the travel bubble. 

“Our guests have been waiting for a long time to return and stay at our hotel, be it our guests from Singapore or from other countries.

“This will impact the hotel industry in Lagoi positively,” he added. 

Hotels aside, other businesses and services also believed they would benefit from the travel bubble. 

Mr Trevy Soenoro, general manager of logistics company Intimas Citrasarana, said he hoped to see an uptick in business with tourists arriving from Singapore. His office is located about 10km from Nongsa and he used to provide transportation services for the hotels. 

“If the number of visitors increases, then of course the hotels will need more supplies and this will give us an opportunity to handle their logistical needs,” he said.

DETAILS UNCLEAR AT THE MOMENT 

However, the hotel operators and businesses said the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the travel bubble has yet to be announced by the Indonesian government. 

The government said on Monday that travellers must test negative for the coronavirus 72 hours prior to departure and again upon arrival at Batam’s Nongsapura ferry terminal or Bintan’s Bandar Bentan Telani terminal.

“We hope to know how the travel bubble should be implemented and the relevant arrangements, so we can adjust our operations,” Mr Tambunan of Natra Bintan said. 

He added that they have yet to launch marketing campaigns related to the travel bubble. 

"We haven't put out a message specifically about the travel bubble, because we are still waiting. To be honest, when we send out (the marketing messages), they should be clear so guests have complete information before they decide to travel,” Mr Tambunan said. 

Mr Eldiansyah of Banyan Tree Bintan said the hotel has prepared an exclusive package for travel bubble travellers inclusive of dining, spa and other activities. 

“We will launch the package after the details are announced,” he said. 

In November last year, Singapore announced a unilateral air vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with Jakarta.

Speaking to reporters after the 5th Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat in Bintan on Tuesday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the country will discuss with Indonesia on how it can expedite the arrangements for a travel bubble with Batam and Bintan, and ensure its success with more Singaporean visitors.

"We would like to make the travel bubble a success, to be able to have more Singaporean visitors. And we will discuss with them and see how we can expedite things," Mr Lee said. "And I think the ministries (of both countries), particularly the transport ministries, will be talking to each other on this."

During the retreat, Mr Lee said the countries will also discuss making the travel bubble with Batam and Bintan apply both ways, and expanding air and sea travel to more destinations in Indonesia.

CALL FOR TRAVEL BUBBLE TO BE EXPANDED 

Hotels located in other parts of Bintan and Batam are hoping that the travel bubble would eventually be expanded beyond Nongsa and Lagoi. 

Mr Riauwandi, revenue and reservation manager of Singapore-owned The Residence Bintan by Cenizar, said they would not be able to receive guests from Singapore as the hotel is located in eastern Bintan. 

“We have been responding to queries from our guests, who tried to make reservations. 

“We told them that The Residence Bintan is not on the travel bubble list, and they were disappointed,” said Mr Riauwandi, who goes by one name. 

He said he understands that the Indonesian government is taking baby steps in opening its borders. 

“Hopefully the travel bubble will go well and the government can expand it,” he said. 

Additional reporting by Cheryl Lin

Source: CNA/ks/(xy)

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