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A perfect mix of business and leisure
PROJECTED to become the world's fourth-largest economy in 2050, Indonesia's progress is well underway with its welcome attitude to investments under President Joko Widodo, who has ushered in a stable political climate and has put the development of infrastructure and tourism as priorities.
The republic's tourism figures show healthy growth with visitor arrivals reaching 15.8 million last year, 13 per cent more than in 2017, and an all time high. The government hopes to draw 18 million tourists this year, a revision of its original 20 million target, citing natural disasters as part of the reasons why arrivals had been affected in the first half of this year.
Ongoing initiatives to increase tourist numbers include the development of 10 New Balis, aimed to increase tourism to other less well- known but noteworthy attractions across the archipelago such as Lake Toba and Tanjung Lesung.
The recent announcement of the seven km sea bridge linking Batam and Bintan is another positive indicator for the development of two of the largest Riau Islands, as well as its neighbouring islands.
Construction of the bridge - estimated to cost around S$390 million - is expected to begin next year, and to be completed within three to four years. The bridge will also leverage on the expected transport connections from Changi Airport Terminal 5 when that is completed.
With the tourism industry highlighted as one of the main sectors for investment, one state in the sprawling archipelago that is seeing healthy investment and tourist growth is Bintan.
The popular resort island saw its visitor numbers cross the one million mark last year, an 18.4 per cent year-on-year growth. There was also a marked increase in tourists from China and India, with Chinese tourists exceeding those from Singapore this year, says Bintan Resort Cakrawala's general manager Abdul Wahab.
He is positive about Bintan's growth, citing many interested parties looking at investing in Bintan Resort. The new bridge will not only benefit local residents, but also Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) groups in considering Bintan Resorts' meeting and conference facilities for their company's retreat, he says.
"The 10 New Balis plan also indirectly benefits Bintan as it has created general awareness to other destinations too," says Mr Wahab.
Bintan Resorts has certainly stepped up efforts to woo tourists with more hotel openings to meet its aim of increasing its hotel inventory to 4,000 to 5,000 rooms by 2021.
The opening of new hotels such as Doulos Phos, a 104-year-old ship hotel with 104 rooms, and teepee style desert-themed glamping resort ANMON with 100 rooms also added to the island's current room inventory of more than 2,000.
Upcoming hotels expected within the next few years include the Chiva-Som Resort and Wellness Centre, the first extension of the Thai health resort brand with 70 rooms and 34 luxury villa estates, as well as Hotel Indigo, Novotel and Four Points by Sheraton.
"We are excited to witness the growing number of visitors to Bintan, and we want to continue to offer them better experiences and venues," adds Mr Wahab.
New developments are in the works to draw more visitors to integrated waterfront development Treasure Bay, home to its iconic Crystal Lagoon, which at 6.3 ha, is the largest man-made seawater lagoon of its kind in South-east Asia.
The 338 ha Treasure Bay will have an organic farm that aims to teach visitors about organic farming through guided tours and workshops, promote farm-to-table dining and will also sell herbs native to the Indonesian rainforest.
A 2.8 ha Marine Life Discovery Park is planned to open in the last quarter of 2019 and will showcase marine life species, wildlife such as marine birds and mangrove flora and fauna.
Sport tourism is another way to bring in the crowds to Bintan. The second edition of the International Bintan Marathon will be held on Sept 7 and 8 and is expected to host up to 5,000 participants across various run categories, a marked increase from 1,200 last year.
"The International Bintan Marathon 2019 is the newest addition to the suite of world-class sporting events available here, alongside the Bintan Triathlon and Ironman 70.3 Bintan. We encourage people in Singapore to have a 'run-cation' just 60 minutes away from Singapore's cityscape," says Mr Wahab.
The cycling Tour de Bintan will also take place next March 27 to 29.
Visitors are also coming to Bintan by way of large cruise ships, with Dream Cruises' Genting Dream adding a two-night weekend Bintan Cruise for its April to November 2020 itinerary and Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, making its maiden call at Bintan in May this year.
And to make things easier for passengers taking the ferry from Singapore to Bintan via Changi Airport, a one-stop service will deliver passengers' baggage straight from the aircraft to the ferry terminal.
"We have also improved and upgraded our ferry terminal to accommodate the increase of sea arrivals by the regular ferry as well as weekly arrivals of cruise ships," says Mr Wahab.
Making way for more flights in the future is the new Bintan airport which is currently under construction. It will feature a three km-long runway when it is expected to be completed by end 2021.