A TRAVEL advisory has been issued by a HarbourFront ferry operator, requesting Singaporean travellers to watch their behaviour when clearing immigration in Batam.
This came after a Sunday Times report highlighted how immigration officials at Batam Centre had begun sending passengers back to Singapore for talking too loudly.
Batamfast, one of three HarbourFront ferry operators that take passengers to Batam Centre, put up a travel advisory on its website yesterday morning. It urged passengers to display discreet and courteous behaviour and to refrain from unnecessary interactions with others.
Another operator, Sindoferry, said it had also begun warning boarding passengers about the strict rules in Batam.
Cherille Figueroa, Batamfast’s station manager, said the rules have had a minor impact on passenger numbers but declined to reveal specifics.
However, traffic to Batam Centre was down at least five percent for Wavemaster Holidays Club, said its operational manager Shahzan Shah.
“More people go to Harbour Bay or Sekupang,” he said, referring to two other terminals on the island where the rules were not as strict. Wavemaster ferried about 500 passengers to the islands each day, with the number doubling on weekends, he added.
In the last two weeks, Batam Centre officers have barred more than 50 Singaporeans from entering, immigration office spokesman Heriyanto confirmed.
The immigration office had the right to take stern action if Singaporeans behaved in an inappropriate manner, he said.
But checks with tour agencies revealed that these immigration rules were not limited to Batam.
“A few months ago, we had a group of over 20 tourists sent back from Bintan,” said Vincent Kong from Chan Brothers Travel. The group of Asian expatriates, who were on a company retreat, were drunk and talking loudly at the immigration terminal.
“We try to talk to the Indonesian immigration in these cases but usually they won’t allow passengers (back in),” he said.
Despite the new rules, agents said interest in Batam as a travel destination was healthy. According to the Singapore Cruise Centre, about 5,000 travellers headed to Batam each weekday, and the numbers doubled on weekends.
Kong said he received about 30 inquiries each week about the company’s Batam packages, mostly from 20-somethings.
“These young families or couples like going there for massages and shopping over the weekend,” said Joyce Tim, manager at Planet Travel, which sells at least 20 packages a month to Batam.
Indeed, young Singaporeans like Amanda Ler, 23, are unfazed by the strict rules.
“I don’t think they are that big a deal, as long as you are mindful of them,” she said. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network