Wed, 31 Mar 1999

Discount card issued to revive tourism

JAKARTA (JP): The government in cooperation with tourism- related industries launched on Tuesday a discount card facility in a bid to revive the country's ailing tourism sector.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Marzuki Usman, said the discount facility offered under the Visit Indonesia Program (VIP) Welcome Card is good for hotels, food and beverages, tourist attractions and sport facilities in more than 250 establishments nationwide.

Holders of the VIP Welcome card are entitled to privileges and discounts of up to 20 percent for food and beverages in participating restaurants and up to 75 percent for accommodation in participating hotels.

Every VIP Welcome cardholder is also entitled to automatic accidental death insurance for Rp 4 million and automatic insurance for medical expenses resulting from accidents of up to Rp 400,000 free of charge.

The cards will be sold at Rp 350,000 for Indonesians and holders of temporary residential permits and will be sold at US$75 for foreign tourists.

The program is jointly sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurant Association (IHRA), the Indonesia Tourism Promotion Board and the Indian Ocean Tourism Organization, in order to attract both international and domestic tourists.

The privilege cards is produced by PT Singa Mas Perkasa (Golden Lion).

"Let me express my gratitude to the Indonesian tourism industry as they always create innovations not only to help themselves but also the government and the country," Marzuki said after the launching of the discount facility.

VIP Welcome's chief executive officer Chris Green, said the program was different to previous joint tourism campaigns and other discount cards launched by the private sector, as it was created for individuals and covered a wider range of tourism products.

He said the program was not likely to copy last year's Let's Go Indonesia marketing and public relations campaign, during which tourism-related industries offered bargain packages.

"It is very specific program that actually sells products and it is more of a long-term program. Let's go Indonesia was merely to let people know that we are still around and the other programs were to advertise what we have done."

Green said that during the start-up phase, the VIP Welcome cards will have more than 250 discounts available in hotels, restaurants, health centers, golf courses and shops across the country.

"We are picking up more discounts everyday. We plan to include Pelni (state shipping company) and Perumka (state railway firm) and also airlines."

Green said the program was being funded by the private sector and through sponsorships in the start-up phase but running costs would eventually be derived from the sale of the card.

He said the cards will be sold at Stanley Adams counters in Matahari department stores in 35 locations in major cities across the country. The program will also be marketed by telephone by tourist board offices and through travel agents.

"We are also appointing agents overseas to sell the cards through travel agents and tour operators."

IHRA's chairman Pontjo Sutowo said Indonesia's tourism products have been very competitive due to the weaker rupiah against foreign currencies.

"Right now all we have to do is to tell people that it is safe and secure to visit our country," he said.

The country's tourist sector, badly hit since early 1997, suffered an even deeper slump during and following the massive riots in May last year, which prompted many foreign countries to issue travel warnings on Indonesia for their citizens. (gis)