Interview: Anthony Akili

What outbound tourism trends are you noticing with the rise of Indonesia’s middle class, and how can tour operators accommodate this?

ANTHONY AKILI: Indonesians are becoming increasingly educated as the middle-income class continues to expand, and indeed those who used to be in the middle-income bracket have now risen to a higher income level. With higher incomes come different spending and travelling habits. Typically over the last 10 years, when Indonesians would go on holidays they requested the cheapest large group packages, or would visit countries or cities in the shortest time possible. In the past we witnessed a lot of 12-day trips to Europe, where a group of families would visit five to seven countries during their stay. Every day they would pass through a new country, but we have seen this habit starting to change. These more affluent people are now travelling outside of the traditional large group packages and tend to be on their own or with their own family in small groups. Tourism companies used to focus primarily on the destination and the best tourism attractions in that location. Now tourism companies need to specifically tailor packages to each customer’s individual tastes and make sure something is included for everyone in the family. Furthermore, we’re seeing some of the highest numbers of outbound tourists going to Europe, which has been a popular destination for Indonesians. Of course, they also travel in high numbers to Asia, Australia and the US.

How much does the lack of connectivity continue to limit Indonesia’s product offering?

AKILI: It really is a huge impact. If we want to increase tourism penetration in Indonesia and expand our product offering, the country’s transport infrastructure needs to be improved, particularly to far-flung regions. We should ask ourselves whether we really want to go on holiday and travel three or four days on the road, on the bus or waiting for a boat. Nobody is interested in doing that. However, that is how long it sometimes takes to get to the other side of the country where there are still beautiful, untouched tourist destinations that can offer some very attractive ecotourism and adventure tourism experiences. Greater access to these destinations can give Indonesia’s tourism industry a competitive edge against neighbouring countries, such as Singapore, which does not have these offerings.

Garuda Airlines is making important progress now by creating airport hubs. By not only focusing on Jakarta and Surabaya and including more of the country’s secondary cities, it will create a new kind of tourism. In the past, all the flights had to go back to Jakarta or Surabaya, but now they can travel within their own region. I think this will create a new model for domestic tourism.

How does Indonesia’s meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) offering compare to other countries in the region?

AKILI: Indonesia is still ranked rather low in the region for MICE tourism, but despite that we do have high volumes of business travellers. Indeed, the volume is growing tremendously every year, but the way we execute our MICE offering just is not up to standard yet. The international standard of MICE is very different to what Indonesia’s tourism sector can currently accommodate. When people want to hold an event or an exhibition there are issues other than finding hotels and conference halls. For instance, if you have an art exhibition, it is currently difficult for the international participants to bring their own art. They need to put the pieces through Customs, which involves a long process and can include many bureaucratic delays, which can disrupt the flow of business. Once these challenges can be overcome, however, Indonesia will then have all the ingredients to be a global MICE destination.