Tue, 11 Mar 2008
From: The Jakarta Post
By Debnath Guharoy, Consultant
As with people of all nationalities, many Indonesians spend their whole lives in their provinces, never traveling far from home.

About 13 percent of the population travel beyond what is required by their daily routines. That figure typically drops by 2 or 3 percent when you eliminate those who travel unexpectantly owing to unforeseen business or family matters.

In a year, only 3 percent of Indonesians travel by plane, the same 3 percent who live the so-called "good life" -- that of plastic cards, new cars and luxury holidays -- while just over 1 percent of all Indonesians have traveled overseas in the last 12 months, either for business or pleasure.

The Javanese, residents of the world's most densely populated island, stay within the confines of Indonesia more than any other islander across the archipelago.

That's understandable, considering distances, availability and cost of convenient transportation and the reality that most people do not have friends or relatives outside of their immediate area.

Sixty-five percent of travelers use buses, making it the most popular form of transportation, even during holdidays. A further 20 percent hop on their family motorbike for vacation.

Another 7 percent travel during holidays by cars owned within the family or by friends, while a mere 2 percent take the boat or ferry.

These statistics are compiled by the country's largest syndicated survey operator, Roy Morgan Single Source, which surveys more than 27,000 Indonesian respondents annually.

The numbers, updated every 90 days, are estimated to reflect almost 90 percent of the population over the age of 14, representing a total of 140 million people.

All holiday-makers, regardless of the distances they travel, make a contribution to the local economy. Not many industries can claim to receive contributions from such a diverse range of customers.

Even before a traveler steps onto a bus or plane, a ticket has already been sold, a room has been booked. Taxi drivers, porters, doormen, chefs, waitresses and housekeeping staff all have jobs to do to support this one traveler.

As does the craftsman, the shopkeeper, the boatman, the barmaid -- the list goes on. If you trace the number of employees called into action by a single tourist couple, the number could well run into the hundreds.

Tourism is good for employment, but it is also good in so many other incalculable ways. The exchange of views, the mingling, the sharing of culture, the goodness that natural beauty can bring, the development of communal pride and purpose. No industry promotes human values, the philosophy to live and let live and the celebration of life more than tourism.

With tourism growing rapidly in Asia, Indonesia is lagging way behind its neighbors. While Vietnam receives more and more tourists every year, Indonesia, hampered by its Bali-centric philosophy, languishes.

The world knows little about Indonesia beyond Bali, and those visiting Bali fail to make a connection to the rest of Indonesia.

It could be argued that the number of underachieving locales in Indonesia rivals the combined total of all other ASEAN countries.

By their own initiative, regional and local budget airlines appear to be doing more to develop travel and tourism than any other business or organization, including the cash-strapped ministry of tourism.

However, airline passengers who aren't visiting friends and relatives need hotels, food, attractions, activities, shopping and night-life. The infrastructure is lacking.

Equally important is the need for a tourist-friendly local government that has its citizens' welfare at the top of its agenda.

Here is an open invitation to form a coalition of the willing and to do some good and make some money: would an official from the ministry, a provincial government, a bank or the Investment Coordinating Board please stand up?

An e-mail to this writer from any of the above would result in an enthusiastic response by a group of capable, experienced investors who wish to execute a textbook construction of a new resort that would make proud all concerned.

If challenged to put my energy where my mouth is by readers of this column, I would join this coalition and dedicate as much time as I could to bring an eco-friendly, socially responsible resort to fruition in Indonesia.

It can be done, and with a greater dividend than any new city shopping mall could ever offer.

The writer can be contacted at Debnath.Guharoy@roymorgan.com



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