Agustina Wayansari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Business players and local authorities are concerned that inadequate government planning for this year's international Visit Indonesia tourist campaign has left them without enough time to prepare.
President of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association for the Jakarta chapter, Krishnadi, said Monday ambitious targets for tourist arrivals weren't in line with official preparations.
"We don't have enough time to prepare and create marketing programs as we only received the announcement during the fourth week of November last year," he said on the sideline of a gathering discussing the business prospects of the campaign.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently launched the Visit Indonesia Year 2008 which targets seven million foreign visitors and foreign exchange revenue of some US$ 6.3 million.
According to Krishnadi, while hotel accommodations are in place, business players are behind schedule on marketing activities as there should ideally be least one year to communicate with the target market.
"Foreigners, unlike Indonesians, always plan ahead. It's not easy to convince them to come to Indonesia for holidays at the last minute," he said, adding that with China hosting the Olympic Games competition would be especially intense.
"People have known about the Olympics for a long time, and may have planed to go there this year."
Indra Surya Fadjar from Horas Tour travel agent in Medan, North Sumatra, agreed with Krishandi, blaming the lack of coordination between government agencies as the main obstacle to the success of the campaign.
"The (Tourism) ministry needs to work more with related institutions, such as the immigration office for better visa management and the transportation ministry on transportation infrastructure," Indra said.
Indra cited experiences with local authorities refusing to grant his company a permit to provide special transportation to tourists traveling in his province merely because there was no bylaw specifically on point.
Indra said illegal fees collected by force by local officials were common and had discouraged local companies from venturing into tourism.
Meanwhile, head of Lampung Tourism Board Taufik Hidayat said the central government was supposed to have better coordination with local agencies in all aspects of tourism promotion.
He claimed that local administrations were responsible only for contributing information for brochures.
Taufik said he wished to remain optimistic but didn't know what the ministry's big picture was for developing tourism and feared the Visit Indonesia might end up more a slogan than a successful campaign.
He said local tour companies weren't being consulted on ministry marketing plans.
Secretary at the ministry's marketing directorate, Hengky Hermantoro, said optimism was in order since tourism was up after the 2002 Bali bombing.
Hengky said last year the country recorded 5.5 million foreign visitors who spent some $5.3 million in aggregate.
"The figure was even higher than the best performance before the (Bali) bombing."
He also said that Indonesia was now a higher profile international tourism destination with many international events being held in the country last year, including the high profile climate change conference in Bali.