The Jakarta Post
More than 100 Chinese tourists shouted “Jia you, Wuhan!” (Stay strong, Wuhan!) in unison while standing in line at Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam, Riau Islands, to depart for their home in Shenzhen, China, on Thursday afternoon.
“They shouted those words as a form of encouragement for the city of Wuhan, which is currently in the spotlight for being the origin of the coronavirus outbreak,” Suwarso, the head of the airport, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Beyond just shouting some words of encouragement, the tourists were also carrying 30 boxes of masks, each containing 50 facemasks, bought from pharmacies and drugstores all over Batam. They are to be given to Wuhan citizens after their arrival in China. The airport’s authority, he said, had granted the tourists authorization to carry the masks without further inspection of the items.
“It’s their form of solidarity and support for fellow Chinese who are currently enduring a rough time because of the outbreak,” he added.
Suwarso said the tourists made up the third and final batch of Chinese tourists departing from Batam after their travel agents had shortened their holiday period in Indonesia due to the recent upsurge of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in China. The first outflow of Chinese tourists from Batam occurred Monday with 145 tourists returning home that day, followed by 127 tourists the next day.
“In total, our figures show that 399 Chinese tourists have returned to China this week alone,” Suwarso said.
Suwarso also said the airport terminated on Tuesday two direct flights to and from two cities in China — Shenzhen and Xian — even though the flights were recently added to the airport’s newest flight schedule.
He said the direct flight connecting Batam and Shenzhen launched on Dec. 28 while the flight between Batam and Xian opened on Jan. 1.
“We finally terminated both flights after many requests from travel agents in China,” Suwarso said.
Meanwhile, the head of the Batam chapter of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA), Andika Lim, said the coronavirus outbreak in China would hit the tourism sector in Batam since the majority of international tourists there came from China.
“So far, we are still calculating the losses in the tourism sector as the coronavirus outbreak has caused a major drop in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Indonesia,” Andika said. (glh)