JAKARTA - Twenty eight Singapore travellers arrived on Wednesday (Feb 23) in Batam, Riau Islands, under a travel bubble that allows those fully vaccinated to enter the city and neighbouring Bintan island without quarantine.
They were the first to arrive in Batam after local authorities closed its borders to foreigners for nearly two years. The travel bubble came into force on Jan 24.
Riau Islands governor Ansar Ahmad, who met the travellers at the Nongsapura ferry terminal while they were waiting for their Covid-19 tests, described the moment as "much awaited", as there had been no foreign arrivals in nearly two years.
"This is an initial phase and the development will be monitored," he said.
Mr Ansar also noted that the Singaporean arrivals signalled "the revival of the tourism industry" in the province, especially Batam.
Under the travel bubble, the Singaporean visitors can visit only Nongsa in Batam and Lagoi in Bintan.
When the current arrangement is considered successful, both regions will be opened fully to visitors.
The Singaporean arrivals come ahead of the implementation of Singapore's vaccinated travel lane (VTL) arrangement, under which fully vaccinated Indonesians from Batam and Bintan travelling by sea may enter Singapore from Friday (Feb 25) without the need to quarantine.
Earlier, Indonesian travellers have been allowed to fly into Singapore under a similar scheme.
Initially, 700 vaccinated Indonesian travellers will be allowed to travel by sea without quarantine per week - 350 each from Nongsapura terminal and Bintan's Bandar Bentan Telani terminal - to Singapore's Tanah Merah ferry terminal.
Head of Riau Islands tourism agency Buralimar said that right now, Batam and Bintan applied a higher weekly visitor quota than Singapore.
"We are asking for the quota to be increased," Mr Buralimar said.
More Singaporean visitors are scheduled to arrive at Bandar Bentan Telani port on Friday when the VTL comes into force.