Only chartered planes have served international flights from Manado so far."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - North Sulawesi is hoping to woo more Chinese tourists to visit its cities by offering what many Chinese tourists love - seas and tasty cuisine.

The province, located in Indonesias northeastern Sulawesi Island, offers a variety of natural panoramas with beaches, hills, volcanic mountains and scenic plateaus.

Beautiful and biodiversity-rich Bunaken Marine National Park, which is just about 10 km from Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi Province, is one of the most famous tourist destinations. The park has been inscribed in the list of World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Bunaken has an amazing and diverse marine life with 70 different corals, five species of sea turtles, many fish species, and even white tip and black tip reef sharks, the almost extinct dugongs, and barracuda.

For food lovers, Manado could become an ideal place to visit as it has become one of the top destinations for the best traditional Indonesian food, such as spicy chicken Rica-rica and Roa fish Rica-rica, with Klaapertart as a recommended dessert.

The provinces plan to woo more Chinese tourists is in line with the plan of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry.

Some 1.14 million Chinese tourists visit Indonesia annually, far lesser than eight million to Thailand.

As many as 1,139,281 Chinese tourists visited Indonesia in 2015, an increase of 18.77 percent compared to 959,231 visitors recorded in 2014.

For 2016, the country has set a target of attracting 1.7 million Chinese tourists, and two million in 2019.

Indonesia hopes to attract 12 million foreign tourists this year, and 20 million by 2019, particularly from Malaysia, Singapore, and China, in addition to Australia, and Japan.

To support its plan, North Sulawesi has encouraged various airlines to serve direct flights to connect Manado with Chinese cities.

Low-cost carrier Citilink Indonesia has responded positively by planning a regular direct flight serving Manado starting late 2016.

"We will attempt to make the Manado-China route operational before 2016," Commercial Director of Citilink Indonesia Hans Nugroho affirmed July 13.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Manado is expected to increase as they are fond of the sea and culinary specialties, both of which are available in abundance in North Sulawesi, Nugroho stated.

So far, Chinese tourists have visited Manado aboard chartered aircraft operating thrice in two weeks until August 2016.

Citilink, a subsidiary of the Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, has served more than 240 daily flights to 27 cities, such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Batam, and Bandung, in addition to Banjarmasin, Denpasar, Balikpapan, and Yogyakarta. Citilink also serves Medan, Palembang, Padang, and Makassar, apart from Pekanbaru, Lombok, Bengkulu, and Jambi. Semarang, Malang, Kupang, Pangkal Pinang, Tanjung Pandan, and Solo, in addition to Palangkaraya, Pontianak, Manado, Aceh, and Dili are also on the Citilink flight plan.

Another Indonesian airline, Sriwijaya Air is also planning to open the Manado-China direct flight route at the end of this year to cater to the increasing number of Chinese tourists traveling to North Sulawesi.

Sriwijaya Airs move was expected to have a positive impact on the regional economy, its district manager for Manado, Achmad Trenggono, said recently.

The plan to open more flight routes from and to the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado will have a multiplier effect, he added.

"We are ready to support the North Sulawesi provincial governments efforts to encourage the tourism sector," he stressed.

If the tourism sector is developed properly, it will have a massive impact on other sectors in the province, he believed.

The general manager of the state airport operator of Sam Ratulangi (Samrat) international airport in Manado, Halendra Waworuntu, pointed out that his side is ready to help the airline company open new routes from Manado to destinations across the world, including China.

"Only chartered planes have served international flights from Manado so far," he informed.

Meanwhile, beginning July until the end of the year, North Sulawesi would attract tens of thousands of Chinese tourists, who will arrive aboard chartered flights to the city of Manado and the surrounding areas, Head of North Sulawesi Tourism Office Happy Korah said.

Chinese tourists have so far visited only five destinations in the province, namely Manado, Tomohon, Bitung, Minahasa, and North Minahasa.

The local government is currently developing new destinations to boost foreign tourist arrivals. The province will promote Sitaro, Sangihe, and Talaud Islands, which have beautiful beaches and crystal clear water.

North Sulawesis islands have huge potential in terms of marine tourism, which is nature-based, he added.

During the July to October period this year, some 30 thousand tourists from major Chinese cities such as Hong Kong, Chend Du, Changsha Beijing, and Wuhan, in addition to Chongging Pudong, Guang Zhou, and Macau, are expected to visit North Sulawesi Province.

They will arrive by 315 chartered flights to be operated by Citilink (38 flights), Lion Air (269 flights), and Sriwijaya Air (eight flights).

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Priyambodo RH
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