Pikri Ilham K. has been general manager of Shanghai and China’s eastern provinces at Garuda Indonesia Airlines Shanghai, Indonesia’s largest commercial carrier, since 2007. He spoke with China Economic Review about Indonesian aviation.
Q: What is the state of Chinese traffic to Indonesia?
A：Indonesia is the biggest country in ASEAN, so it’s attracting a lot of Chinese visitors. At the moment, leisure travelers dominate the travel demand to Indonesia – Bali is the most popular destination, followed by Jakarta. The former is especially popular with Chinese tourists. They’re a very reliable clientele, and are already the fourth-largest source of tourism – I believe in a couple years they could be the largest.
Q: What about for the business travel segment?
A: There’s been a lot of investment from China into Indonesia. From the perspective of our location here in eastern China, the investment is coming from the Shanghai region – not the city specifically, but from neighboring provinces. Even so, there’s a lot of commercial trade between Shanghai and Jakarta, so the number of business travelers going back and forth is also increasing.
Q: Who are you targeting for new customers?
A: We’re looking primarily at the mining industry, and the natural resources sector more broadly. In the coming few years we expect significantly more investment into Indonesia from China, especially in infrastructure projects. So we are marketing to Chinese companies who are attached to those industries – companies that build roads, harbors and so on.
Q: What has the trend been as far as traveler numbers?
A: There’s been a substantial increase on the Chinese side. Indonesia is one of the top ASEAN destinations for Chinese travelers. We’ve responding by expanding our operations. All three of our China locations – Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing – are scheduled to have direct daily flights to Jakarta by July this year. We’re also considering expanding into the western regions of China such as Chengdu.
Q: And leisure travelers make up most of the demand?
A: At the moment it’s about 65-70% leisure travelers. Ideally it should be closer to 50% leisure travelers and 50% business travelers. We cannot rely 100% on leisure travelers – demand is too volatile. We need to shift our focus on to business travelers. Otherwise our business model will not be sustainable.