Thu, 02 Oct 2003

Foreign arrivals rise, despite Marriott bombing

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Showing its resilience, the country posted an increase in foreign tourist arrivals in August -- the same month when a powerful bomb blast damaged a luxury Jakarta hotel and killed 12 people.

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) said on Wednesday that despite the terror attack, foreign tourist arrivals rose slightly to 368,217 in August from 364,952 in July.

"The bomb blast at the JW Marriott Hotel on Aug. 5 dealt only a temporary shock," Sudarti Soerbakti, BPS chairperson, told a media briefing.

While arrivals at Jakarta's international airport fell to 84,600 in August from 98,100 posted in July, "it had little impact on the number of arrivals in all parts of Indonesia," she said.

The number of foreign tourist arrivals in the January to August period, however, decreased by around 20 percent to 2.32 million compared to 2.89 million during the same period last year.

The BPS report covers tourist arrivals at 13 entry points including the country's main tourism destinations such as Jakarta, Bali and Batam.

Arrivals in both Bali and Batam also experienced a rise in August. Bali saw a 3 percent increase in August to 121,236, while arrivals in Batam rose from 113,099 to 123,474.

Sudarti said that the rise was evidence that the country's tourism sector remained on track in its recovery from a recent slump arising from a series of shocks, both internal and external.

The industry has had to deal with a number of huge blows, including last year's terrorist bombings in Bali, rising fears of militant backlash against Westerners, and the recent outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

These factors have forced the tourism ministry to cut its foreign tourist arrival target this year by 33 percent to 3.2 million from 4.8 million. The foreign exchange revenue target from the sector was also revised down from US$4.3 million to $2.8 million.

Confirming BPS' upbeat outlook, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) said that Indonesia's tourism industry had now stabilized and could even expect a late-year surge in the number of foreign arrivals.

The chairman of PATA's Indonesian branch, Alistair Speirs, was quoted by AFP as saying that provided there were no more attacks, Indonesia could well see a surge in foreign arrivals in months to come.

"We think there is strong potential for the year-end because our infrastructure is still there, the industry is very much still there, it just depends on bringing those foreign visitors back," Speirs said in Singapore.

Meiti Robot, chairwoman of the Association of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (Asita), said on the same occasion that her office had started a tourism campaign targeting Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and China.