DestinationsInstead of taking a flight out, why not recommend your clients a fun holiday to these two Indonesian islands, just a short ferry ride from Singapore’s shores

Weekend bonanzas: Bintan & Batam

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Marine Life-Discovery-Park-200228
Opening later this year, the Marine Life Discovery Park will offer 1.5 hectares of unadulterated wildlife fun for nature fans.

When time, budget and ideas run low, travellers may sometimes forget that about an hour’s ferry ride from Singapore’s shores lie two increasingly exciting holiday hotspots: Bintan and Batam.

In fact, the Riau Islands province was Indonesia’s second most-visited destination in 2019 with more than 2.5 million tourists, mostly hailing from Singapore and Malaysia. A proposal for higher tourism budgets and 100 tourist events planned for 2020 are in place – here’s why.

Bintan’s new playgrounds
The resort island crossed a record-breaking one million visitors in 2018. Tourist arrivals then hit 1.5 million in 2019, where domestic tourists made up 40% of arrivals, followed by visitors from China, Singapore, Japan and Australia.

To match international demand, there’s the imminent launch of Bintan Resorts International Airport – when hotel rooms count is expected to jump five times to 10,000. Existing attractions have also been revamped and enhanced, including mangrove discovery tours, sports tourism and Instagram-worthy accommodations.

Next, with recent news of the Gallant Obayashi Green Agritech Park – not just a greenhouse commercialised for export to Singapore and beyond, but also attracting the public with an education centre – Bintan’s all-round allure knows no bounds.

Yet, most travellers might still be unaware: Bintan Resorts International Pte Ltd is not a singular property, but in fact an integrated beach destination brand, consisting of 13 independently owned and operated resorts, four designer golf courses, a plethora of land and sea activities, tour and F&B options.

Take Doulos Phos The Ship Hotel for instance. The former 104-year-old-vessel was bought by Singaporean businessman Eric Saw in 2010, then transformed to the floating hotel docked today beside Bintan’s Bandar Bentan Telani ferry terminal. Guests can tour its maritime museum, preserved engine room, enjoy luxury amenities or simply retreat into its 104 cabins – an attractive choice for couples seeking privacy in a unique setting.

Next is Anmon, taking glamping to the next level with 100 teepee-style tents. Already a hit with social media bees, up to four guests can enjoy each spacious 45sqm and 8m-high tent, complete with modern comforts such as air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom, private patio and Internet.

Foodies might enjoy tucking into Mediterranean fares, a first on the island, then catch the sunset at TIPI bar, helmed by a Singaporean award-winning mixologist.

Also in 2020: hotel brands Indigo and Holiday Inn are due for completion, and for the shoppers, mixed used development Prime Plaza Hotel & Shopping will be a magnet. Nature fans are not forgotten – the Marine Life Discovery Park offers 1.5 hectares of unadulterated wildlife exploration of more than 70 species, 15,000 fishes, marine birds and mangrove native flora and fauna.

The grand January opening of Travelodge Batam, what was formerly Novotel Batam.
The grand January opening of Travelodge Batam, what was formerly Novotel Batam.

Batam’s bold strides
Already a popular mini getaway for travellers looking for cheap alternatives to seafood feasts, beauty treats, spas and massages, Batam is also ramping up on the cultural front, with the near completion of the King Ali Haji Museum.  

According to Batam Tourism Agency head, Ardiwinata, the museum would be “a place where students can learn about history”, since artefacts include ancient manuscripts on Malay history, while others are believed to be from the Ming Dynasty. After the cultural immersion, tourists can walk right over to the Mega Mall Shopping Centre for food and relaxation; convenience at its best.

Hotels abound, including the latest opening of Travelodge Batam – what was previously Novotel Batam. Travellers can expect an elevated stay in its newly designed 254 rooms and lobby area, in addition to a fitness centre, indoor pool, lounge and spa. Families travelling with kids will particularly enjoy spacious rooms fitted with super king-size beds and adjoining rooms. Best of all? Its prime address, just five minutes away from Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal.

Plus, with the upcoming launch of the Bintan-Batam sea bridge, holiday makers from Singapore – and international travellers connected via Changi International Airport – truly have more choices than ever.

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