Fri, 18 Jul 2003

Govt sets out plan to boost tourism

Fitri Wulandari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government is trying to boost its promotion efforts in its traditional tourism markets as part of a plan to help out the battered tourist industry.

State Minister of Culture and Tourism I Gde Ardika said the marketing program would focus on luring back tourists from China, Japan, Southeast Asian countries, Australia and the Middle East.

"We are starting from the nearby areas before moving to other markets such as Europe," the minister told the press on Thursday.

"The recovery plan is focused on marketing and improving tourism as a product," he added.

The above countries have been the main source of foreign tourists for Indonesia in the past decade.

The country's tourism industry has been badly hit by a series of disasters, including last year's terrorist bombings, fear of a militant backlash against Westerners as a result of the Iraq war, the recent outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) as well as the government's own restrictive new visa policy passed this year.

All of 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 under the original plan. The foreign exchange revenue target from the sector was also revised down from US$4.3 million to $2.8 million.

To implement the recovery program, the ministry has set up a working committee consisting of five groups, with each responsible for a particular market.

Each group will conduct a series of campaigns such as a roadshow and participation in travel exhibitions. The groups have approached many in the travel business from each market as well as designing tour packages to lure tourists. The budget for the campaign program this year is Rp 50 billion (US$6.09 million), a tiny budget compared to the more than $100 million allocated by Singapore.

Makiko Iskandar, the head of tourism promotion committee for the Japanese market said the group would focus its strategy on luring more elderly tourists to the country.

"Many senior citizens in Japan have the financial means, the time and physical ability to travel. This is what we are going to focus on," she said.

Japan has been Indonesia's number one source of foreign visitors for the last three years.

I.B. Ngurah Wijaya, the head of the tourism promotion committee for the Australian market said his group would launch a campaign to resell Bali and other destinations in Indonesia.

"It will include a traveling promotion in several cities, interactive dialogs with Australian players in the industry and business meetings," he said.

Similar strategies will also be applied for China and the ASEAN markets.

The ministry is also looking to get more visitors from the Middle East, which according to a report that 70 percent of Middle East travelers stayed in first-class hotels and liked marine tourism in Muslim countries.