Thu, 06 Mar 2003

General election may be boon for hotel industry

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The country's hotels could experience an upswing in business this year, not from tourists but from political parties booking meeting rooms to make preparations for the 2004 general election, an industry official said.

"The general election means political parties need rooms for meetings as well as to spend a couple of nights preparing for the campaign," the secretary-general of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), Adnan Karamoy, said on Wednesday.

He predicted the meeting room occupancy rate would jump to about 80 percent, as occurred during the 1999 elections. He did not give the current occupancy rate for meeting rooms.

The country's hotels have suffered from declining tourist arrivals since the Oct. 12 Bali bombings, which killed more than 200 people, mostly foreigner tourists.

Hotels on the popular resort island of Bali, for example, have seen their occupancy rates plunge to single digits since the bombings. The average occupancy in the industry last year was about 50 percent.

The government has started massive promotion programs, both at home and overseas, to revive the tourist industry. The PHRI is coordinating its promotional activities with the government's US$4.6 million campaign.

Adnan said that for the time being the association would focus on local tourists and businesses rather than foreign visitors, due to unfavorable conditions in the world travel industry.

"Considering the international circumstances, such as the possibility of war in Iraq, all hotels will focus more on domestic tourists," he said.

He added that the country's hotels would also place an emphasis on corporate meetings, conferences and exhibitions.

PHRI is planning to advertise on local TV stations to encourage Indonesians to travel more in the country.

The Office of the State Minister of Culture and Tourism has projected that the number of domestic tourists this year will reach 133.45 million people. It did not give the figure from 2002.

PHRI will also work closely with the police to ensure the security of hotel guests.

"On March 22, 2003, PHRI is scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding with the National Police on a security operation to support the national tourism program," Adnan said.