The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Which number would you like to have for next year's total tourism visit projection? Would it be 6.2 million, 6.4, 6.5, or even 8 million? These are the choices you get when the government sets a target for expected visitors to the country in 2009.
Last Thursday, the director general of marketing for the ministry of culture and tourism Sapta Nirwandar was very optimistic with the 8 million figure. "The industry was a crisis-proof one," he claimed at that time.
A few days later however, Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik said in a press conference Tuesday that the projected figure for next year was 6.5 million, with a second target of 6.4 million, "a moderate projection," he said, and a third at 6.25 million, "a (more) pessimistic target".
If the world economic crisis was not happening, then the target of 8 million could be easily reached, the minister argued.
As for this year, the number of tourists was 6.433 million, Jero added, bringing in US$7.55 billion in foreign exchange income, a 45 percent increase from the $5.3 billion recorded a year earlier.
The average tourist in 2008 spent $1,178 on a visit to the country, up from $970 last year.
Optimistic or not, crisis or not, hotel room capacity keeps growing. Carla Parengkuan, executive director of the Indonesian Association of Hotels and Restaurants, said 40 new hotels would start to operate next year.
Carla said the hotels would add another 5,000 to the present 135,000 hotel rooms. The new hotels would be opened in the cities of Bali, Medan, Manado, Solo, Jakarta and Surabaya.
"They are mostly three-star hotels."
The average hotel occupation rate this year was 65 percent, with 70 percent in Bali, she said. Next year, an occupancy rate of 60 percent would be fine, because this was the limit for the break even point for hoteliers, she said.
Jero also said that with the 2009 elections and political campaigns, hotels occupancy would increase.
He said that aside from marine and sports tourism, MICE tourism (meetings incentives conferences & exhibitions) was expected to contribute more to the total figures next year. This year there were 400 MICE events, compared to a forecast of 200.
Iqbal Alan Abdullah, chairman of the Indonesian Congress & Convention Association (INCCA), said MICE participants already contributed 40 percent of total visitors.
The "Visit Indonesia Year" slogan and programs would be continued through next year, the minister said. It was possible the government would carry the campaign forward to 2010 if needed.
With a budget equivalent to only one fourth of the estimated promotional budget required, which was $100 million, the director general marketing said that creativity in marketing and promotions had to be pushed forward if the new tourist targets were to be met. (iwp)