Despite the promises of some Balinese officials to make life more difficult for foreign tourists, the number of guests from abroad continues to grow on this paradise island. Even Russians, whose influx noticeably decreased as early as April, cannot influence the statistics.
Meanwhile, the high season has begun in Bali. Vacationers have flocked to the island, replacing the winter visitors. The number of passengers arriving on international flights continues to grow. For the first time this year, there are more international tourists than domestic ones. In the first five months of 2023, the Indonesian island welcomed 7.8 million guests, of which 4.1 million were foreigners.
In May alone, Ngurah Rai Airport served 804,613 passengers on domestic flights (with 397,457 arrivals and 407,156 departures) and 947,506 passengers on international flights (with 468,874 arrivals and 478,632 departures).
The CEO of Ngurah Rai Airport, Handy Herudyatiawan, explained that in May 2023, a total of 1.7 million passengers (including both local and foreign tourists) passed through Ngurah Rai International Airport, with the airport serving 11,429 flights. Several major holidays were observed in Indonesia in May, which also contributed to the high number of passengers.
"We observed that during several national holidays, the number of domestic passengers increased by 25 percent," explained Handy. According to airline statistics, Jakarta became the most popular domestic destination with the highest number of passengers at 398,062. It was followed by Surabaya with 114,145 passengers and Makassar with 44,271 passengers.
Among the international destinations, Singapore emerged as the busiest route with 223,504 passengers in a month. It was followed by Kuala Lumpur with 122,882 passengers and Melbourne with 73,252 passengers. While Melbourne only ranks third among the destinations, Australia continued to hold the top spot for the number of its citizens visiting the paradise island in May.
According to immigration records for the previous month, a total of 109,875 Australians arrived on the paradise island through Ngurah Rai International Airport. They were followed by tourists from India with 48,652 individuals and citizens from China with 24,146 individuals.
"In May, we also provided services to aircraft participating in the ASEAN Summit and conducted extensive preparations for the arrival of the world's largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, which safely and smoothly landed in Bali on June 1st. We hope that the positive momentum and results in 2023 will be a sign that the aviation and tourism industry will soon return to normal life," said Handy.
Against this backdrop, Indonesian authorities have once again discussed the grand project of expanding Bali's airport. The question was raised by the Minister of State Enterprises, Erick Thohir, during a working meeting with the Indonesian Parliament Commission. The official stated that the modernization of Ngurah Rai is necessary as the flow of passenger flights is growing each day after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Aviation experts agree with Thohir. They say that the airport on the paradise island is already overcrowded and there is an urgent need to increase its capacity. The airfield requires an additional runway, an expansion of the apron and aircraft parking facilities.
"If the government wants to develop tourism in Bali, there is no other choice but to increase the capacity of Ngurah Rai Airport. The airport is the main gateway to the island for foreigners, as not many tourists from abroad use seaports," said aviation commentator Elvin Lee.
Meanwhile, the operator of Ngurah Rai Airport, Ankasa Pura I, is discussing expansion plans cautiously. Rahadian D. Yogisworo, the Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Ankasa Pura I, stated that the project to increase the airport's capacity is still under consideration. He added that the capacity enhancement would also be accompanied by the development of relevant facilities, but did not provide details on when the approval process would be completed and construction would commence.
According to local journalists' calculations, 1.6 trillion Indonesian rupiahs have already been invested in the airport expansion preparations. Taufan Yudhistira, the Public Relations Manager of the operating company, Gusti Ngurah Rai, explained that the investments were made for a land reclamation project covering an area of 47 hectares. The land will be used to expand the passenger terminal, aircraft parking, and taxiway.