The first international flight from Singapore to the new Silangit International Airport in Tapanuli, North Sumatra, landed on Saturday (28/10). The Garuda Indonesia flight was the first to land on the airport after a runway extension expected to bring more tourists to the area, especially to Lake Toba, one of the governments’s priority tourist destinations.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan welcomed 60 passengers on the GA 8506 flight on the tarmac, along with Tourism Minister Arief Yahya and Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi.
Garuda will fly from Singapore to Silangit three times a week.
Citilink, Garuda Indonesia’s budget airline subsidiary, also marked its first domestic flight from Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma to Silangit using an Airbus A320, as the runway is now large enough to accommodate Airbus airplanes.
Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air have also used Silangit for their domestic flights, according to a press statement from the maritime affairs coordinating ministry.
“We design the airport terminal to [accommodate] at least 350,000 people and up to 500,000 people [per year],” Minister Luhut said, while adding there is still a possibility of expanding the airport.
The airport’s runway was extended from 2,200 meters by 30 meters to 2,650 m by 45 m. It can now accommodate wide-bodied planes including Boeing 737-800 and Airbus 320, president director of airport operator Angkasa Pura II, Muhammad Awaluddin, said.
The Tourism Ministry hopes Silangit Airport will bring in more tourists from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
The ministry has spent Rp 20 trillion ($1.5 billion) to develop the area around Lake Toba, Rp 10 trillion of which was spent on infrastructure development and another Rp 10 trillion in resort development, Tourism Minister Arif Yahya said.
“A world class tourist destination, like Lake Toba, needs an international airport,” Minister Arif said on Saturday in a statement.
President Joko Widodo’s administration has been promoting new tourist destinations in Indonesia that they have christened as the “10 New Balis”: Borobudur Temple in Central Java; Jakarta’s Thousand Islands; Lake Toba in North Sumatra; Tanjung Kelayang in Bangka Belitung; Tanjung Lesung in Banten; Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara; Bromo, Tengger, Semeru in East Java; Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara; Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi; and Morotai in North Maluku.