The Jakarta Post
Trikora Beach on Bintan Island, Riau Islands. (Shutterstock/Fakhri Anindita)
Indonesia and Singapore have agreed to open borders for essential business and official travel starting Oct. 26.
During the said time, the points of entry and exit would be Batam Center Ferry Terminal in Riau Islands and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal for sea travel and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, and Changi Airport for air travel.
Bintan acting regent Buralimar shared his excitement upon hearing the news. He hoped that the decision would lead to the opening of access for foreign travelers from Singapore.
“The Riau Islands provincial administration has sent a letter to the central government requesting that it open borders for Singaporean tourists visiting Lagoi [integrated tourism zone in Bintan regency],” said Buralimar on Tuesday as quoted by antaranews.com.
Buralimar added that the tourism zone was ready to welcome foreign travelers under strict health protocols.
Buralimar explained that Lagoi integrated tourism zone owned a port to serve foreign travelers and was located far from the residential area.
“We are ready to put Lagoi at stake to welcome foreign tourists during a pandemic,” he said.
Buralimar suggested the government conduct a trial at Lagoi’s port and impose measures to prevent COVID-19 cases, such as by limiting the number of foreign tourists to 300 people per week.
“If it’s possible, [Lagoi] then can gradually resume operations in October or early November, so Bintan tourism will be able to grow amid the pandemic,” he said.
However, Buralimar realized that the local administration did not have the ability to force the central government to open borders in Lagoi.
Riau Islands, with more than 1,000 islands, places second for foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia, after Bali.
Last year, Riau Islands reportedly attracted 2.59 million international visitors, almost half of whom or 47 percent were from Singapore. China came in second, providing Riau Islands with 260,000 tourists, accounting for 10 percent of the total number of foreign visits. Batam contributed almost three-quarters of Riau Islands’ foreign tourist arrivals at 1.76 million, followed by Bintan at 575,000 and Tanjungpinang at 154,000.
Border closures have impacted tourism and the economy in Riau Islands, which depends largely on travelers from Singapore.
A July 31 report filed with the Bintan Manpower Office showed that 500 employees of the popular Bintan Lagoon Resort had been laid off. It was reported in August that the resort would be shut down due to losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, international events such as Bintan Ironman, Bintan Triathlon and Tour de Bintan have been postponed this year. (jes)
Editor’s note: This article is part of a public campaign by the COVID-19 task force to raise people’s awareness about the pandemic.
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