Indonesia’s Move towards Tourism

After Joko Widodo took over the Indonesian government as its elected president in 2014, one of his priorities was to make tourism and culture the main pillar of the country’s economic growth. For the first time Indonesia has a Ministry of Tourism.

Even though this ministry is still young, the responsibilities imposed on it are not half-hearted. It has a mandate to make the tourism industry Indonesia’s biggest source of foreign exchange revenues. To achieve this, the Ministry of Tourism set a target of foreign tourists to reach the number of 20 million in 2020.

Of course, with the number of tourists estimated at only 9.4 million people in 2014 and 10.4 million in 2015, there must be concrete steps to support the expansion of the tourism sector that can attract visitors from different parts of the world. Nonetheless, observers are optimistic that the set target is not impossible to achieve in the near future. This is seen from the growing figures of tourists, where in 2016, the total foreign tourists coming to Indonesia rose 12% or 12.1 million people. This year the number is predicted to be even more.

The incessant promotion of culture

In an effort to develop the tourism industry, Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism, Arief Yahya, recognises the importance of converting traditional tourism into digital tourism. In addition to calling businesses in the sector to “go digital,” he upgraded the cultural promotional efforts under the tagline “Wonderful Indonesia” which was first coined in 2011.

This effort has incarnated a global achievement. Competing with 91 films from 18 countries, “Wonderful Indonesia” promotional video won the top International Grand Prix Award in the XIII International Tourism Film Festival, held recently in Bulgaria.

The vital role of the tourism sector requires all stakeholders to develop this sector sustainably. Not only limited to the Ministry of Tourism, promotional efforts have also become the joint agenda of several ministries. Different strategies have been exerted by the Indonesian government to promote Indonesian culture and tourism to the international community through cultural diplomacy. For example, KEMENDIKBUD (Ministry of Education and Culture), through one of its programs, organised the annual Indonesia Weekend in the UK. At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also created a scholarship program on Indonesian culture, known as Beasiswa Seni Budaya Indonesia (BSBI), for foreign students. Entering its 15th anniversary, the scholarship has produced around 718 graduates from 63 countries.

The improvements of airports and air connectivity

As the main entrance gate for foreign tourists to Indonesia is through air transportation, major improvements have continued to be implemented in the Indonesian aviation industry by improving safety, security, and comforts.

In fact, Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia’s national flag carrier was given the World’s Best Cabin Crew award for the fourth time in a row and was included in the World’s Top 10 Airlines by Skytrax last July. The carrier also continues to expand its network and it now flies to over 73 destinations worldwide.

With the increased positive views on the quality of Indonesian flight carriers, efforts to develop and improve airports are also important. Indonesia currently has 296 airports, of which 27 already have an international airport status. This year the Directorate General of Civil Aviation of the Ministry of Transportation will implement the constructions of 14 new airports.

Improving airports across the Archipelago has resulted in Indonesia attaining global achievement as well. For instance, I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali was awarded the World’s Third-Best Airport 2016 among airports serving 15 to 25 million passengers per year. In the meantime, Sultan Hasanuddin Airport in Makassar was crowned the Most Improved Airport in the Asia-Pacific in 2016.

The expansion of air connectivity has allowed foreign tourists come to central islands such as Java and Bali, but also other provinces, including those in eastern Indonesia. The country, which has been often synonymous with Bali, has been receiving global attention since CNN chose Raja Ampat in Papua as the world’s best snorkeling destinations in 2015. The island is the home for 75% of all known coral species in the world.

It is, however, important to note that transportation to Raja Ampat was very difficult and expensive as travelers were required to charter a small plane to get there. For this reason, the move by Wings Air to open a direct flight to Raja Ampat twice a day received a warm response from people around the world. The first landing, with Raja Ampat’s Regent, Abdul Faris Umlati, was successfully carried out on 25 January 2017.

Easier visa bureaucracy

Another step by the government to develop its tourism sector is through making visa bureaucracy easier. In the recent years, the government in Jakarta has implemented a series of bureaucratic reforms to improve public services. One sector that has been positively impacted is the Immigration Office, which has also contributed to the increase of the number of tourists.

One such step is to create a visa-free policy to 169 countries through Presidential Regulation number 21 of 2016. The dropping out of visa requirements to these countries can be seen as part of a wider government attempt to minimize the bureaucratic burden in major industries, such as tourism.

Development of physical facilities

Besides development and maintenance of tourist attractions there is also a matter that needs to be addressed for a sustainable tourism industry. The enhancement of clean facilities such as public toilets, the availability of trash bins, the opening of roads, and the provision of road signs to the tourist sites should be adjusted with suitable urban and environmental planning so that the current development would not eliminate aesthetics, but rather add to the beauty of tourist sites.

In addition to the above efforts, Arief Yahya has also introduced a homestay development program to develop tourism villages that will be restated in 2017 in order to support the acceleration of the development of 10 priority destinations. This program is encouraged to increase the number of accommodation facilities for travelers. By 2017, he is targeting the construction of 20,000 new homestays. It is hoped that affordable and well planned accommodation facilities will bring in more tourists

Speaking of physical means, it is not always about building. Convenient transportation facilities to reach tourist sites is also a very important role in increasing the number of tourists. For example, Yogyakarta, as one of the favorite tourist destinations in Indonesia, continues to advance TransJogja access to tourist sites in this city with a fleet of 105 buses operating through 17 lanes. By taking TransJogja, visitors can sit comfortably for a relatively low cost and get around the city because it has bus stops at various tourist places, like Prambanan Temple, Malioboro, Tugu Jogja, Keraton Pakualaman, and Taman Sari.

Indonesia’s move toward the betterment of its tourism industry is bright news to the country and beyond. For the former, this also means that there will be a growth in the number of jobs and business opportunities. It also helps the promotion of the positive sides of Indonesia, despite all the problems it faces. These improvements will make foreign tourists feel more comfortable by providing an easier and safer visit as they enjoy the beautiful spots in Indonesia.