BINTAN - After two years of lull in tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic, the popular Indonesian holiday islands of Bintan and Batam are finalising plans to reopen their shores to leisure travellers from Singapore.
Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto on Monday (Jan 24) said the Indonesian government was now prepared to launch the travel bubble as the Covid-19 cases on the two islands are under control.
All required protocols for the bubble have been put in place, he said.
"The Indonesian government is encouraging the establishment of travel bubble between Batam, Bintan and Singapore... This would help spur tourism," Mr Airlangga said.
He did not give a date they were working towards for the reopening.
The announcement came ahead of the Leaders' Retreat between Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday.
Under the arrangement, travellers from Singapore are allowed to enter Indonesia via Nongsapura ferry terminal in Batam and Bandar Bentan Telani ferry terminal in Bintan.
They must be fully vaccinated and must have stayed in Singapore for at least 14 days prior to their arrival, according to a circular by Indonesia's Covid-19 task force.
They must also show a negative PCR test taken within three days before departing Singapore and take another when they arrive in Indonesia.
Other requirements include a holiday insurance package that would cover hospital treatment worth S$30,000 for the travellers.
Singapore had earlier announced a unilateral vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with Indonesia on Nov 29.
That VTL later required quarantine for visitors from Indonesia, following a rise in Covid-19 cases in the country, according to Ms Pauline Suharno, secretary general of Indonesia's travel agency association.
A Straits Times check on Sunday and Monday found port workers at the Bandar Bentan Telani ferry terminal, in Bintan, putting on the final touches to welcome Singaporeans and ensure they travel safely.
At the ferry terminal, RT-PCR test desks have been set up and standing banners inform travellers to download the PeduliLindungi app, the Indonesian equivalent of Singapore's TraceTogether app, to facilitate contact tracing.
Hotels and tour operators were upbeat about the reopening.
In the last two years, some hotels such as Bintan's Cassia beachfront apartment hotel have had to slash their rates by half to stay afloat.
Ms Pauline said tour operators, and spas are planning to give discounts to attract Singaporeans.
"We have heard plans of this travel bubble a few times. Hopefully, this time around they are really going ahead," she told The Straits Times.
But recovery takes time.
"They (Singaporeans) need to talk to their bosses, find colleagues to stand in while they go on holiday. Not like bosses in Indonesia who are more flexible and may tolerate last-minute leave requests," she added.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.