Jakarta-Singapore

S'pore No. 1 destination for travellers from Indonesia

No other airport in the region has been able to match the standards at Changi Airport (left), so travellers may still choose to transit in Singapore over other airports, says Indonesian aviation observer Dudi Sudibyo. However, he warns that Dubai has
No other airport in the region has been able to match the standards at Changi Airport (left), so travellers may still choose to transit in Singapore over other airports, says Indonesian aviation observer Dudi Sudibyo. However, he warns that Dubai has become a "comparable alternative" to Singapore as a transit point for Indonesians.ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

Singapore remains the top destination for travellers from Indonesia, with more than three million flying from Jakarta to the Republic in the first nine months of this year, according to Changi Airport. Hundreds of thousands more fly from other Indonesian cities.

Most travel for holidays, work or school, or for day trips to attend to personal needs such as banking and medical appointments.

Whenever cruise consultant Amanda Soebandi, 25, visits Singapore, she will be on the lookout for the next cool cafe to hang out with her Indonesian friends. She will also eat chicken rice and head to Tiong Bahru Bakery to have her favourite coffee and bread.

"I love to eat. Singapore is tiny, but it is clean, and there is always some place new to explore. My friends and I would look for small, quaint cafes that few people know about to relax," she told The Straits Times at the Soekarno-Hatta international airport, where she and her colleague Monica Santana, 26, were to head to Singapore to join a five-day cruise to Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

It will be Ms Amanda's fourth trip to the Republic, and Ms Monica's first. Whenever possible, they will fly budget. They each bought a Lion Air ticket for 1.5 million rupiah (S$158) two weeks ago.

Ms Amanda is looking forward to an all-you-can-eat buffet and swimming during the cruise, while her colleague is excited about shopping at Ion Orchard and in Bugis.

She said she is "feeling the pinch from the falling rupiah", but will continue to visit the country. "That will not stop me from visiting Singapore again. I like to jalan-jalan (stroll around), discover new food places, and if I have extra money, then maybe I will go shopping."

Analysts said the type of travellers to Singapore has not changed, but they see a growing trend of people using the island as a transit point to visit other countries in the region, thanks to more connecting flights from Changi Airport and affordable tickets from budget airlines.

"Domestically, even village folk in flip-flops are now taking planes from city to city in Indonesia and asking for flights as presents. The growing middle class means they will still choose to travel to Singapore for holidays," Indonesian aviation observer Dudi Sudibyo told The Straits Times.

He said no other airport in the region has been able to match the standards at Changi, so travellers may still choose to transit in Singapore over other airports.

But he cautioned that Dubai has become a "comparable alternative" to Singapore as a transit point for Indonesians, offering affordable shopping and luring Indonesian Muslim travellers to visit the Middle East. Dubai also offers a good selection of connecting flights to major cities around the world.

Another Indonesian aviation analyst, Mr Gerry Soejatman, said that in the future, fewer passengers may need to transit in Singapore as more direct flights to international destinations are made available from Soekarno-Hatta airport. However, more travellers from other Indonesian cities may visit Singapore as the government builds more and better airports in the country.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore No. 1 destination for travellers from Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe