Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tourism starting to slow down in Tanjung Balai

On a recent trip to Tanjung Balai Karimun, I noticed a big difference from a year ago. The ferry trip from Kukup Malaysia was only half filled, with only a few Malaysians. Most of the passengers were Indonesians returning. Even the coffee shop operators in Kukup were complaining that they see a drop of around 30% in business. They also mentioned that the Malaysian immigration were tightening the entry requirements for Indonesians (maybe due to the economic downturn in Malaysia). More indonesians are asked to show uang tunjuk when they enter Malaysia. This is the amount of money that the Indonesians have on them to prove they are here on a social visit and can afford to pay for their stay instead of working illegally. If the visitors do not have enough uang tunjuk, they are sent back to Indonesia.

I also heard that a ferry operator from Singapore to Tanjung Balai Karimun recently cut their daily trips from 6 a day to just 3 due to low passenger load.

Maximillian hotel was quiet, even on a Saturday. The local restaurants were also very quiet. They are normally very popular with tourists who frequent them for their fresh seafood. The local Karaokes (KTV), night clubs and disco are also affected. One employee told me they are really feeling the global economic downturn now. If they have a time machine, they would love to go back a year ago!

I think there are a few different reasons why Tanjung Balai is starting to feel the pinch now. Firstly it was the economic crisis, then there is unreasonable increase in TBK's port tax from Rupiah 25k to 60k for foreigners. Recently there was a threat to shut down Villa, the brothel complex. This may have scared off some people.

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