Nadya Natahadibrata, Jakarta – National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia is to open a new route from Denpasar, Bali, to Dili in Timor Leste, in October, in an attempt to tap into the growing number of travelers from the country's former province.
Garuda sales and marketing director Erik Meijer said on Friday that the carrier was scheduled to run daily flights from Denpasar to Dili in October, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Timor Leste's flag carrier Air Timor on Tuesday.
"We see Dili as a promising market. There are limited flight options to the city, so we are trying to meet the market demand," Meijer told reporters at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Indonesia Tourism and Creative Economy Fair (ITCEF).
On Tuesday, Garuda president director Emirsyah Satar signed the MoU with Air Timor director Francisco Bento Alves Pereira Belchior, witnessed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Timor Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. Under the MoU, Air Timor has committed to help to sell Garuda tickets, Meijer said.
According to Indonesian Tourism Promotion Board (BPPI) chairwoman Wiryanti Sukamdani, Timor Leste is a promising market due to the price disparity between the two countries.
"People from Timor Leste see Indonesia as a shopping destination as it is cheaper to shop here than in their country. So it's a promising destination to be developed," she said.
In a bid to further expand its flight network in the eastern part of Indonesia, Garuda will open three further routes starting on Sept. 1: Makassar-Kolaka (Southeast Sulawesi), Makassar-Bau Bau (Southeast Sulawesi) and Mataram-Sumbawa Besar (West Nusa Tenggara).
"We have decided to open these new routes in order to show our commitment to supporting the development of the national economy by increasing the connectivity between regions," Meijer said.
He added that the airline was planning to link Manado (North Sulawesi) to Raja Ampat (West Papua) by the end of this year, in an attempt to entice more foreign tourists to the country's most popular diving destination.
The carrier will also increase the frequency of the Makassar-Luwuk route from one flight per day to two per day, in an effort to meet increasing market demand.
"We are also planning to increase our frequency to Labuan Bajo [East Nusa Tenggara] from twice per day to three times per day, on the back of rising demand, mainly from foreign tourists," Meijer said, citing that the flight's load factor was almost 100 percent.
Garuda has been considering assuming management of Komodo Airport in Labuan Bajo due to its tourism potential. In April, the firm submitted a written statement to the Transportation Ministry expressing its interest in managing the airport.