One of the six economic corridors outlined in Indonesia’s latest development master plan is Bali-Nusa Tenggara, with this region flagged up as a gateway for tourism and national food support. The Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development 2011-25 (MP3EI) thus also recognises tourism as a prime economic sector. It also marks the geographical region including the islands of Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo, Flores, Sumba, West Timor, and the Solor and Alor Archipelagos as prime sites for further tourism development.

A PRIMARY DESTINATION: The corridor acknowledges that Bali is already the primary single tourism destination in the country, responsible for around 40% of all tourism arrivals in 2010, around 12% of the nation’s entire hotel capacity and 21% of national hotel income. At the same time, the two provinces of Nusa Tenggara – West and East – have some much more modest numbers; they account for around 3% of national tourism capacity, bringing in about 1% of the country’s tourism income, yet they also show great potential for improvement. The two parts of the corridor’s name are thus seen as working together, with Bali’s existing profile and infrastructure being leveraged to turn the island into a gateway destination to the islands of Nusa Tenggara. Already there is evidence of this happening, particularly on neighbouring Lombok, which now has good ferry connections to Bali. The Gilli Islands, which lie off Lombok’s western coast, have benefitted considerably, with direct ferry connections to Bali now available. The question remains, however, as to how much further east Bali arrivals will venture. At the same time, the MP3EI also flags up the comparatively low spend per tourist on Bali in comparison to regional peers such as Thailand. On Bali, the figure quoted is under $100 a day per visitor while it is over $100 a day for Thailand. Visitors also tend to stay for shorter periods on Bali than in Thailand. The master plan draws up a series of strategies for addressing these challenges. Firstly, security concerns have to be addressed, in Bali in particular, given its recent tragic history. Secondly, a more focused promotional strategy has to be put in place, with this following the five themes of the “Wonderful Indonesia” campaign (see overview). Promotions will be organised in a way that matches one of the five – nature, culture, people, cuisine and value for money – to a particular country’s market.

TRANSPORT LINKS: On Bali, the strategy also seeks to give more authority to those on the ground – the Bali Tourism Board specifically – to organise and coordinate the island’s promotion. The northern part of the island has also been targeted for more development. This hitherto less frequented part of Bali will see a new international airport built, and this is also expected to draw away visitors from the congested south.

In encouraging visitors to venture further into Nusa Tenggara, the strategy aims to develop the inter-island transport infrastructure, while marketing a multi-destination holiday to tourists. This also includes eastern Java, which is seeing airport development at Jogjakarta and Surabaya. Lombok also recently completed a new international airport in October 2011, with a capacity of 3m passengers per year. The possibility of visitors combining a number of themes across multiple islands is thus being advanced, with holiday packages and transport infrastructure designed to match.

OTHER NEEDS: Boosting human resources development and creating standards of service are also two big challenges in the corridor – as they are elsewhere in Indonesia. This is also recognised in the master plan, which seeks public-private partnerships and foreign as well as domestic investors to help turn its strategies into quantifiable improvements. A further challenge will be to accomplish this development without damaging the very nature and culture on which it is based. Rigorous environmental controls are called for, with many hoping that the master plan will prevent unsustainable tourism projects and bring an integrated approach to the development of what few would dispute is one of the most fascinating and diverse regions on earth.