Travel Bubble Proposed for Singapore, Riau Islands and Desaru Coast
Montigo Resorts Nongsa
(Singapore 5 August 2021) In addition to having a geographical proximity, Singapore, the Indonesian Riau Islands (which include Bintan and Batam) and Malaysia’s Desaru Coast in Johor Baru (Sijori), have much in common. Tourism is crucial to their economies, and of course, like the rest of the world, they have suffered greatly from the global pandemic. Mr Drs Buralimar M.si, Head of the Riau Islands Tourism Office, stated during a Zoom meeting on July 22, 2021 that the name Sijori has existed since the days of Indonesian President Suharto, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia.
With the pandemic dragging on much longer than anyone expected administrators, those in the hospitality business and tourism officials of Sijori are working to create a travel bubble between the destinations. It is obvious why attracting tourists is important to them. In Bintan there are 2200 rooms sitting empty, and another 5000 in the pipeline, not to mention a new airport ready to welcome travellers. In neighbouring Batam, the luxury resort and marina Nongsa is likewise suffering from a lack of tourists filling hotel rooms, restaurants and playing on the golf courses.
Montigo Resorts Nongsa
It must have been bitter sweet for the newly revamped Desaru Coast resort, located on the south-eastern coast of Johor, to have been named one of TIME Magazine’s World’s Greatest places of 2021, when they now have no visitors. “This is an outstanding achievement for a team only two years in operation," said Managing Director and CEO, Roslina Arbak.
Not only is Singapore an important source of tourists for its neighbours, but in 2019 it attracted over 19 million visitors, some of which spilled over to Malaysia and Indonesia, and visa versa. The Republic would like to see those pre-pandemic numbers return, so regional co-operation makes good sense.
In the zoom meeting the interested parties discussed the details of how such a travel bubble could work. “Even though the border hasn’t been opened yet,” said Buralimar, “and we don’t know when this pandemic will end, we must continue to be enthusiastic about preparing all things related to the New Normal in the field of tourism or travel. In time we will be ready to welcome back the arrival of travellers from Singapore and Malaysia.”
First step is to assure travelers that the destination is safe. Not only does it have low Covid-19 cases, but vaccination rates are high.
But being Covid free is not just a requirement of the destination, but of travellers too. Mrs Sri Astuti Se., MA Head of Creative Economic Development Department of Riau Islands Tourism pointed out that arrivals must be vaccinated, be Covid free for one month, and have a valid health certificate proving this Then they will be issued a Blue Pass which allows for tracing with check-in check-out QR codes. Bintan has CHSE Certification for all their hotels.
Mrs Sri Astuti Se added, “Riau Islands is still a promising province for investors as evidenced by the continued development in the tourism sector even in this Covid-19 situation. There is investment potential in malls, hotels, resorts and apartments on an international scale. There are also opportunities for creating new tourist destinations.”
The war against Covid-19 has gained ground through vaccinations Mrs Sri Astuti Se noted, “Vaccination in Riau Islands has reached 63.41% as of 19 July 2021 with 70% the target.”
The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism has invited the tourism industry to extend CHSE certification for those who were certified last year and encourages those who have not yet received CSHE (Clean safety, Health and Environment) certification to obtain it. Riau Islands Province targets having 245 certified; 39 hotels, 206 other businesses. For the implementation of the travel bubble in Indonesia, the most prepared area is Bintan Resorts, followed in Nongsa, Batam.
One purpose of Sijori is to develop a joint Marketing Promotion and to become a platform for a spirit of the re-born Sijori.
Mr. Andy Fong Chairman of Nongsa Sensation and General Manager, Batam View Resort, stated that 90% of the residents have been vaccinated. He offered suggestions for attracting foreign visitors such as MICE packages and international events. Fifty events have been planned for the coming year.
Mr Sulaiman Shehdek Manager of Visit Indonesia Tourism Officer, updated the Covid-19 situation in Singapore. Kelvin Ong, Visit Indonesia Tourism Officer, Malaysia, and Abdul Wahab Group General Manager, PT. Bintan Resorts Cakrawala, also discussed New Tourism Products, Events, and the Travel Bubble.
Sporting events that would take place in all three countries is one idea which is being developed. Marathons and bike races could take place in Sijori over several weekends, for example. As all the resorts have world-class golf courses a Golf Marathon could be developed and Golf Challenges are being planned.
With the nature of the Covid-19 virus it is almost impossible to predict when boarders will open and we will return to the way things used to be, but when that day comes those whose livelihoods and interests depend on tourism in Singapore, the Riau Islands and Johor Bahru will be ready.
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