On Sunday morning 18 December 2016, exactly at 05.30 West Indonesia Time, the first Citilink aircraft Airbus A320/200 flying in from Wuhan in China landed smoothly on the tarmac of the Raja Haji Fasibillah international airport of Tanjung Pinang, carrying more than two hundreds tourists from Wuhan and surrounding cities, who have made the beautiful island of Bintan their main destination.
This was the inaugural flight to be followed by many more in a whole series of flights from China to the Riau islands, south of Singapore, where budget airline Citilink, subsidiary company of Garuda Indonesia, will carry 500 tourists per day from China to the islands, totalling 15,000 per month or 180,000 throughout the year.
The flights are the implementation of the MoU signed in early 2015 at the Plaza Building in Beijing, China, between Citilink, the Wanda Hubei Group and the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia, whose signing was witnessed by Indonesia’s Tourism Minister, Arief Yahya and Vice President of Wanda Culture Group, Mr. M. Yueming.
Ready at the airport of Tanjung Pinang to welcome the first flight were Governor of the Riau Islands, H. Nurdin Basirun, accompanied by Citilink CEO Albert Burham, CEO of Angkasa Pura I, Muhammad Awaluddin and Special staff of the Ministry of Tourism for improvement of Connectivity, Judi Riantoro, as well as a cultural troupe who performed the welcome dance for the first tourist arrivals direct from China to Bintan.
The Sunday morning flight launched the start of the Wuhan –Bintan route which raised Bintan into a true international tourist destination. Citililink will operate 3 flights a day between the two cities carrying between 200 to 300 passengers per flight. The tourists are sourced from 19 cities in China, which will be increased to 24 cities, said Citilink Albert Burhan
“This is a collaboration between Citilink with the Chinese Wanda Hufei Group”, added Burhan.
Wanda Group is a very wellknown Chinese corporation, whhich initially focused on property but has now expanded to tourism including hotels, malls, entertainment centers, apartments and commercial buildings. In Indonesia, the company is interested to support tourism development in Bintan, Manado and Morotai, said Tourism Minister Arief Yahya.
Its first action, however, is the implementation of the cooperation with Citilink to bring charter tourists to the Riau Islands, and in particular to the island of Bintan, famous for its wide open beaches and prestigious sports tourism events, besides offering an array of delicious freshly-caught seafood at most reasonable prices. Additionally , the Riau islands comprise a multi-cultural society centered around the historic Malay culture and traditions at the historic Penyengat island, off the coast of Tanjung Pinang.
In the initial stage, Citilink will serve 9 cities in China, increasing to 19 cities carrying from these sources alternately three times daily flights by Airbus A-320/200 with a capacity between 165-180 passengers per flight, Said Hendra Jayasubakti, Citilink area Manager for Sumatra and Kalimantan.
The return flight from Tanjung Pinang, will make a stopover at Batam’s Hang Nadim Airport for refueling before flying back to China.
In Bintan, Citilink is also working in close cooperation with hotels and the local tourist industry. “This is our effort to support Government’s target to reach 15 million international tourists in 2017 and 20 million in 2019”, said Hendra.
Separately, Head of Bintan Culture and Tourism Office, Luki Z. Prawira, said that the tourists will stay at a number of hotels in Bintan along the Lagoi Beach and the Trikora Beach. The island, is also preparing to make this a special year end holiday for all tourists to Bintan.
All 10 hotels in Lagoi Beach in the north of Bintan and 3 along the Trikora Beach are set to celebrate Christmas eve with a spread of delicious food, while ending the year with fireworks. On the 1st of January, the district Governor together with the tourist industry will specially welcome the first arrivals to Bintan at the pier of Bandar Bentan Telani port.
Preparations are also underway to make celebrations of the forthcoming Chinese New Year and Cap Go Meh 2017 in the Riau Islands extra special events to remember.