Foreign tourists catch some rays at Bali's Kuta Beach. (Photo: J.P. Christo, JG)
Indonesia Tourist Arrivals Rose in 2009 but Spending Declined
More foreign tourists visited Indonesia last year than in 2008, but they spent less, resulting in a sharp decline in total tourism revenue, the government reported on Monday.
A total of 6.45 million foreign nationals visited the country in 2009, an increase of 0.8 percent from 2008, according to preliminary data from the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy. However, total spending dropped 15 percent to $995.9 million, while the average length of stay fell to 7.69 days from 8.58 days, the ministry said.
The government is forecasting foreign tourist arrivals to increase by 4.7 percent to 6.75 million this year.
“We expect the tourism sector to contribute 4.8 percent of the gross domestic product,” Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa said.
The government has announced a number of measures to boost tourism, including the creation of community-based programs to improve the quality of travel destinations, the certification of tourism-related employees and increased government lending for tourism projects.
In 2009, tourism was hit by the global economic slowdown as well as the July bombings of two luxury hotels in Jakarta.
David Brett, Asia Pacific president of travel technology company Amadeus IT Group, predicted tourist numbers would quickly bounce back to the peak levels seen in 2007. Foreign tourists had gained a better understanding of Indonesia, and were less concerned about security issues than in the past, he said.
“Now they are not as scared when they watch TV as they used to be,” Brett said. “The Asia-Pacific region has shown itself to be resilient during the crisis. Tourism will drop when there is a problem but it will bounce back quickly.”
Brett said Indonesia will join Australia, Malaysia and India as the fastest-growing tourism destinations in the region.
However, Indonesia still lags far behind its smaller neighbors in terms of tourist numbers. Malaysia welcomed 15.38 million foreign tourists during the first eight months of 2009 alone, while Singapore saw 4.51 million tourist arrivals in the first half the year.
Purbaya Yudhi Sadewa, an economist from state-owned PT Danareksa Sekuritas, said the government’s target of 6.75 million tourist arrivals this year was realistic, given that efforts to boost the sector offered plenty of room for improvement.
“Visit Indonesia is a good program but it lacks proper implementation,” Purbaya said.
Lacking a more effective long-term strategy, the country’s tourism sector would likely only grow in line with the global economy, he said.