Interview: Budi Tirtawisata
What more can be done to position Indonesia as the leading touristic destination in the region? Is enough being done in the public sphere?
BUDI TIRTAWISATA: Indonesia’s tourism sector has had better momentum since 2008. We have faced turbulent times in the last 15 years, but fortunately we are moving on the right track. Indonesia is in a new era for tourism, and the number of local and international tourists from and to the country keeps growing. Globally, the number of tourists travelling each year exceeds 1bn, with annual growth of about 2%. In the Asia-Pacific region the growth rate is 7-9%, including Indonesia. As the largest country in the region and the economy with the greatest natural resources, the government’s goal for 2014 is 10m arrivals, which is still low compared to Singapore’s 15.5m. Therefore the opportunities for Indonesia in this context are quite significant, and more needs to be done to fulfill this potential.
Luckily, all stakeholders today acknowledge and are aware of the wealth that tourism can bring to both the economy and society. The attention the sector has received is demonstrated by the Indonesia National Tourism Master Plan (RIPPARNAS), the government’s blueprint to develop the industry through 2025. Under this plan, there are four major areas of focus: opening new destinations, marketing and promotion, industry infrastructure and tourism institutions. With this roadmap, the government aims to increase the number of tourists to 20m by 2019. Such developments will undoubtedly have a positive impact on our industry and the economy, but we have to make an effort not to lose track and to keep this momentum going for the future.
What efforts are being made to diversify Indonesia’s tourism offers and include rural areas?
TIRTAWISATA: Rural tourism remains largely untapped. The potential for growth, however, is great, as Indonesia has much more to offer than just sun and beach. We have 17,000 islands, more than 300 tribes and hundreds of dialects. The main issue to address is the lack of international awareness of such destinations, which means that more needs to be done in terms of promotion and marketing. In this regard, Indonesia partnered with Germany to host ITB Berlin in 2013. It was the first time in decades that Indonesia acted as Official Country Partner in the event, escalating the nation’s visibility and promoting Indonesia tourism more intensely. This effort falls under RIPPARNAS’s second goal. We have to raise awareness about all that Indonesia has to offer, because most tourists still come here only for Bali. It is a work in progress and all stakeholders must do more.
What can be done to replicate Bali’s success for different islands across the archipelago?
TIRTAWISATA: Each island in Indonesia has its own essence, and remote areas like Samosir Island on Lake Toba, Sawahlunto in West Sumatera, or Banda Aceh have the potential to develop the tourism industry to much higher levels. However, today the country needs more domestic and foreign investment, and both central and regional authorities are working together on this. For the past two years, investments have been channelled mostly towards building new hotels. While this is positive, Indonesia should start focusing more on infrastructure, connectivity and particularly human capital, which is the main challenge to overcome.
In Bali’s case, locals already enjoy the benefits of tourism. Visitors have brought wealth to the island, and therefore the local authorities and community are working to remain the number one destination in the country. The situation is different in other parts of Indonesia, as locals have not witnessed the contribution that the tourism sector can make to their lives. More training and vocational schools are needed in remote areas. This is where the public and private sector must work together to improve the industry in remote areas. Attracting more investment to develop human talent, as well as showing local communities the positive impact of tourism, will be two major areas of focus as we aim to replicate Bali’s success across the archipelago.
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