Batam shopping promotion aimed at bagging tourists
Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam
The Batam city administration and the local tourism industry are to launch a "shopping adventure program" in early May to attract more overseas tourists to the island located in Riau Islands province.
Batam Municipal Tourist Agency director Arifin Nasir told The Jakarta Post that the program was based on the reality that prices in Batam were much lower compared to those in the neighboring countries of Malaysia and Singapore.
"The number of visiting tourists here has declined following the halting of gambling on the island. But we have not lost hope and will try to get them back with this shopping adventure promotion," Arifin said.
As part of the promotion, the tourism agency would work together with shopping centers to organize various events, including promoting handicrafts from across the province.
"Indonesian-made clothes and footwear are known to be of good quality and their prices are definitely lower than in Malaysia and Singapore. This is the special bonus we can offer foreign tourists visiting Batam," said Arifin.
Figures from the tourism agency show that the number of tourist arrivals started to decline in 2005. The figure for 2004 totaled 1,527,216, compared to 1,005,000 in 2005, representing a significant drop of 522,216.
From the start of this year to date, only around 83,000 foreign tourists had visited Batam, while in the corresponding period of 2005, the number stood at 124,000. Thus, it is widely assumed that the of foreign tourist in 2006 will be far lower than in previous years.
"We should be optimistic. It's too early to conclude that Batam is not attractive to foreign tourists. We'll try to explore our cultural riches in the hope that Batam will become a cultural tourism center," said Arifin.
Batam has greatly benefited from the flow of tourists from Singapore and Malaysia, and the efficient transportation links between the island and these two countries.
Of the 76 scheduled ferry crossings to Singapore and Malaysia daily from the Batam Center International Ferry Terminal, 49 of them depart for Singapore and 27 for Malaysia. This excludes ferries from three other entry points in Batam -- Nongsa Point Marina, Marina City and Sekupang.
Anthony Chandra, the manager of the Indah Puri Golf Club in Batam, said the administration needed to do more to attract overseas visitors back to Batam.
"To date, tour operators have been working individually in mounting promotional campaigns. We warmly welcome the Batam administration's efforts to promote the program to attract foreign visitors to Batam. It shows that they are also feeling the pinch as we are," said Anthony.
The drop in the number of tourists traveling to Batam, according to Anthony, has greatly affected the island's golf clubs, which rely greatly on overseas golfers.
"We have been facing a drop in the number of foreign guests since August 2005. We will have to focus more on domestic visitors as the market is quite promising now," said Anthony.
Only between 2,100 and 2,200 golfers visit Puri Indah each month now, compared to 2,800 to 3,000 previously.
"We totally support the administration's move to promote tourism even though it has not yet proven successful. But hopefully it will in the near future," said Anthony.