The Jakarta Post
The picturesque view of Barelang Bridge in Batam. (Shutterstock/Dwi Yulianto)
Senior therapist Luzila Zandroto was concentrating on washing the fingernails of a customer in a bowl of warm water on a Monday. Later she skillfully used special scissors to manicure the nails.
“This month, many Singaporean tourists have come here for pedicures and manicures, both on weekdays and weekends. It's school holidays in Singapore, hence many are vacationing in Batam," said Luzila at the Konad Nail and Beauty Salon located in Nagoya Hill Mall, Batam, Riau Islands, on June 24.
According to Luzila, who is also a supervisor at the nail salon, there were about 50 customers from Singapore and Malaysia just the day before on Sunday; all came for the manicure and pedicure treatments.
"They are generally less fluent in Malay and more fluent in English," Luzila said.
Outside the holiday period, Singaporean tourists mainly get treatments on Saturday and Sunday, she added. The salon itself, with 12 nail therapists, can accommodate a maximum of 50 to 60 people
"Locals already know that weekends are when the foreigners come, so we mostly welcome tourists from Singapore and Malaysia [those days]," Luzila said.
Low prices and satisfying results are said to be among the popular reasons why Singaporean tourists choose Batam for their nail care. For Konad itself, it is a blessing. It began operating in 2015 and now has three branches in well-known malls in Batam that are favorite places among citizens from the neighboring country.
In addition to standard pedicure and manicure treatments, customers from Singapore also go for artistic nail treatments, such as the "acrylic nail", a main choice and a part of "art nail".
Acrylic nail is made by mixing liquid and powder. The mixture is then used to polish the real or fake nails.
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"Art nail is a popular choice besides standard care. It takes a long time, over two hours for 10 nails," Luzila said.
For art nail, the price is set at Rp 50,000 (US$4) per nail; hence, the total price for 10 nails is Rp 500,000, excluding the cost of paint/nail polish.
"But even the most expensive treatment is still under Rp 1 million, far below the price in Singapore, which reaches millions of rupiah," Luzila said.
For standard treatments apart from art nail, prices range from Rp 50,000 to Rp 350,000, which includes a brief massage.
"The prices for tourists and locals are the same; there is no difference," she said, adding that not all tourists were generous in giving tips to therapists; some even ask for discounts.
Anne Ho, a middle-aged tourist from Singapore who had finished getting a treatment, said her purpose for coming to Batam was mainly to care for her nails and color them.
"The price is much cheaper here; the therapists are also friendly. I have come to Batam several times for nail care," said Anne.
The Indonesian Spa Association's (Aspi) regional chairman for Riau Islands, Alfian Chung Peony, told The Jakarta Post that currently the "image" of Batam tourism in the eyes of Singaporeans has changed.
"Previously, Singaporean tourists who came to Batam were low class, like drivers and so on, and they were looking to have sex and gamble, but now those who come are different: high class and with families and also more educated. Their choice is of course healthy tourism, including spas, pedicures and manicures," Alfian said.
Alfian said that Aspi, in addition to organizing spa and massage venues, is also an association for about 200 beauty salons and parlors that are scattered in malls, shopping centers and business complexes.
"Low prices and close proximity to Singapore are the main reasons for [the tourists] to come here," Alfian said.
According to Alfian, beauty treatments in Batam of the same standard of quality can be four to five times less expensive compared to Singapore.
“Batam's only rival is Johor Bahru, which can be reached by land from Singapore, but the choices and prices in Batam are still more varied than in Johor," he added.
According to Alfian, for entrepreneurs like him, opening a branch in Singapore for beauty care is not a suitable option, since the therapists who work there are required to have international certification, which is difficult to get.
"Standards and operational costs there are more expensive, so it is also natural that the prices are higher," said Alfian.
The head of the Batam Tourism Agency, Ardi Winata, said that certifying the therapists would require support from the Tourism Ministry.
"Since tourists now come to Batam to enjoy spas and beauty treatments, we will provide the certification so that the services provided are guaranteed," said Ardi, adding that the local cuisine is also a highlight of the region.
According to Batam Immigration data, in 2018 up to 3.3 million people entered the city through its five international ferry ports, namely Batam Center, Citra Tritunas, Sekupang, Marina and Nongsa Point Marina. Out of the 3.3 million, 1.7 million were foreigners and 1 million were Singapore citizens. (nic/kes)
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