Jakarta. 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 government's priority tourist destinations.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan welcomed the 60 passengers onboard flight GA 8506 on the tarmac, alongside Tourism Minister Arief Yahya and Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi.
Garuda will fly from Singapore to Silangit three times per week.
Citilink, Garuda Indonesia's budget airline subsidiary, also marked its first domestic flight from Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in East Jakarta to Silangit Airport using an Airbus A320, as the runway is now large enough to accommodate Airbus jets.
Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air have also used Silangit Airport for domestic flights, according to a press statement issued by the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs.
"We design the airport terminal to [accommodate] at least 350,000 people and up to 500,000 people [per year]," Luhut said, while adding that 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 the Boeing 737-800 and Airbus 320, said Muhammad Awaluddin, president director of airport operator Angkasa Pura II.
The Ministry of Tourism 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 on resort development, Minister Arif said.
"A world-class tourist destination like Lake Toba needs an international airport," he said in a statement on Saturday.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration has been promoting new tourist destinations in Indonesia, which they call the "Ten New Balis." This includes 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 National Park in East Java; Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara; Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi; and Morotai in North Maluku.