Throughout 2014, the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy will begin establishing 561 tourism villages in 19 regions across the archipelago, and aim to expand to 1400 in the coming years. An effort to engage the public more directly with tourism, localise sector earnings and maximise authenticity of the tourist’s experience, the ministry will invest RP75m-100m ($75, 000-100,000) in each of the designated villages, which are being scouted. The ministry plans to conduct skills development at each site, focusing on visual culture, gastronomy, foreign language learning and tourism management, once the villages are selected.
The newly established People Empowerment Independent National programme will oversee the training programmes, part of a larger effort to make tourism in Indonesia more sustainable, environmentally friendly and community-based. Village residents will learn preservation techniques that will be applicable to their specific environments, and develop ways to maximise tourism potential in their communities. Meanwhile, tourists will be given a more hands-on experience when they visit the villages, engaging in craft-making, learning farming techniques and enjoying cuisine unique to the regional culture. Budi Tirtawisata, CEO of integrated tourism company Panorama Group, told OBG, “Community-based tourism is popular, because locals are part of the experience, rather than an object to a traveller.” The Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy will select villages based on their potential to participate in sustainable community-based tourism. The government is promoting the offering in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, China and Japan, key markets for village tourism and ecotourism, according to a 2013 study.
Along with the village tourism market, the Indonesian government is beginning to actively promote ecotourism in an effort to sustain the very biodiversity and dynamic landscapes that draw tourists to Indonesia in the first place. Ecotourism, which is practiced with minimal environmental impact, has the potential to benefit from a recent declaration to protect a majestic member of the country’s marine life. In February 2014, Indonesia became the world’s largest sanctuary for manta rays after the government declared the creatures off-limits to fishing and export. At home in the 5.8m sq km of ocean surrounding Indonesia, manta rays could contribute millions to the ecotourism industry, as they attract divers and adventure tourists.
As the low-cost carrier industry has expanded rapidly in South-east Asia and driven growth in Indonesia’s domestic market, the increased availability of affordable flights is allowing more tourists to travel on a budget and still experience the attractive features of Indonesia’s diverse regions. For example, Komodo National Park has now become more accessible since the September 2013 completion of Labuan Bajo Airport’s new 2150-metre runway, allowing it to receive Boeing 737s and other large aircraft, whereas it was previously restricted to accommodating propeller planes and small jets. Komodo is an attractive destination for ecotourists, as East Nusa Tenggara province is the only natural habitat of the Komodo dragon.
Infrastructure issues once again pose a challenge to the industry in this context, as many enticing locales across the archipelago are inaccessible, require rugged overland travel or necessitate multiple legs in one journey. However, many top destinations for those interested in exploring Indonesia’s tropical forests or observing native species, such as orangutans, tigers, rhinoceroses and elephants, are becoming more reachable since the administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono prioritised infrastructure development with its $43bn budget allocation.
While regions with potential for ecotourism are poised for more business, some destinations face recovery efforts before moving forward. Java and Sumatra, two important tourism regions, suffered setbacks when a chain of volcanic eruptions halted tourism. In Sumatra alone 25,000 people were displaced. The government must ensure safety and sustainability as it moves forward with its plans to develop community-based tourism.
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