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Garuda plans Osaka-Jakarta flights amid soaring interest in Indonesia

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Garuda Indonesia will begin offering flights between Osaka and Jakarta in October as part of its international expansion strategy, the chief of the nation’s flagship carrier said.

“Japan is one of the focuses that we would like to bring Indonesians,” said Garuda President and CEO Emirsyah Satar said Friday at a Tokyo news conference, ahead of the first anniversary of its service between Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali, on April 28.

The new route from Kansai International Airport in Osaka will give western Japan access to Jakarta with four flights a week, according to Satar. Garuda already serves the city with daily flights from Narita airport.

As well as Haneda, the airline also provides flights to Bali from Narita and Kansai international airports. Satar said Garuda is planning to increase its global destinations to 22 from 19.

Indonesian tourists to Japan surged 64.1 percent in 2012, surpassing 100,000 for the first time, the airline said. The dramatic jump was credited to Indonesia’s rapid economic growth of 6.2 percent last year and the launch of the Haneda-Denpasar route.

In an interview with The Japan Times, Satar said he expects more of his compatriots to flock to Japan, which he described as “one of the so-called chosen places for Indonesians.”

He said Japan’s culture and food are the main attractions, but also cited the nation’s cyclist-friendly populace, which has had a big impact. Cycling is a popular sport in Indonesia, especially among the wealthy.

“What is effective in Indonesia is word of mouth. That’s why we brought this group of cyclists,” Satar said, referring to a cycling tour the firm has organized with Yamanashi Prefecture for Sunday and Monday. Around 30 Indonesians are expected to take part and another tour is scheduled for later this month.

“When cyclists travel, they travel in big numbers, at least 20 or 30″ in a group, Satar said, adding that Garuda set up the tour because “cyclists are people who can spend money — they want to spend money.”

Another cycling tour planned in Ehime Prefecture this fall will attempt to build on the October launch of the Kansai-Jakarta route.