Following Bali's announcement to welcome foreign tourists from September 11, tourism stakeholders on Riau Islands are keenly awaiting the authorities' green light to reopen the destination for tourism – tentatively set for September too.
Riau Islands, alongside Bali and Jakarta, was one of the three biggest contributors of foreign tourist receipts to the country in 2019.
Of the province's thousands of islands, Riau Islands’ best-known destinations are Batam, Bintan and Karimun, which were popular destinations for weekenders from Singapore and Malaysia prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is hence natural that these neighbouring markets will be prioritised for the Riau Islands in its tourism recovery strategy when cross-border travel is permitted again, said Vinsensius Jemadu, director of tourism marketing for region I (Indonesia, ASEAN, Australia, and Oceania).
“Singapore and Malaysia [will remain] potential and strategic markets for Indonesia,” he stated during the Riau Island – Keeping Up and Ready for New Normal webinar hosted by The Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy earlier this week. Singapore alone already made up 25% of total arrivals to the Riau Islands.
The plan, according to Vinsensius, is to first bring in smaller groups of leisure travellers (FITs), then golfers in groups of not more than five, followed by the MICE sector and mass sport activities with numbers limited to 200 for a start. Cruises, however, will be relegated to the back of the reopening queue.
Key tourism players in the Indonesian province have already been laying the groundwork for the eventual return of international visitors.
“We’ve been working with all parties – Bintan Resort Council, Covid-19 Task Force of Riau Island Province, Ministry of Tourism – and we’re [still] engaging our travel agents, event organisers and discussing with cruise liners in anticipation, like what Pak Vinsensius mentioned, to hopefully open internationally in September,” said Abdul Wahab, group general manager at Bintan Resort Cakrawala at the webinar.
Apart from working closely with regional and national Covid-19 task forces as well as the World Health Organization, Bintan and Batam have since the onset of the global pandemic established cleanliness and safety protocols across ferry points, land entry points, attractions and public areas.
“In preparation for post-Covid new normal, Bintan Resorts has adjusted our paradigms and introduced Bintan Resort Cares, a message that we care on cleanliness, safety and health of our guests and staff," said Wahab, stressing the destination's readiness to welcome guests again.
For instance, all capacities in cars, vans, ferries, water sporting activities and even mangrove boat rides are halved, while associates keep watch over hotel pools to ensure guests are at least 1.5 to two metres apart.
Upon boarding ferries, which now accommodate 150 pax, travellers must scan a QR code for contact tracing purposes, while “electronic updates of Covid-19 will be flashed into your handphone immediately upon arrival,” said Wahab.
The island also has 70 rooms on standby should cases be reported, while each of the 15 hotels are also equipped with isolation rooms, managed by the quarantine department of Indonesia.
Dominic Ong, vice president of travel agency Tour East Singapore, is hopeful of promoting Bintan Island as an extended destination from Singapore for overseas clients again. “The level of service rendered [by Bintan] is equivalent to Singapore’s and we can always count on them to make sure of our guests’ safety and wellbeing," he said.
Laguna Bintan general manager Alpha Eldiansyah pointed out that flexible cancellation and postponement policies can also be a way "to assure guests and build confidence in this period".