Official data shows tourism recovering faster than expected
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) disclosed on Monday tourist arrival statistics, which indicate that tourism is recovering faster than many had anticipated following the Oct. 12 Bali bombings.
BPS said the terrorist attacks had dealt a severe blow to the tourist sector as the number of foreign tourist arrivals fell by 2.33 percent in 2002 to 5.03 million compared to 5.15 million in 2001.
But the bureau added that only a month and a half after the bombings, foreign tourists had started returning to Bali, the country's main tourist destination.
BPS said that foreign tourist arrivals on the famous resort island jumped by 93 percent in December to 68,100 from 35,100 in November.
"There has been real progress in the country's tourist industry as indicated by the figures," said Soedarti Surbakti, BPS chairwoman.
She explained that aside from the fact that December was traditionally peak season for the industry, efforts taken by relevant parties to save the sector, such as price cutting measures, had contributed to the surge.
BPS said the number of foreign tourist arrivals nationwide in December increased by 17.58 percent to 281,928 from 239,774 in November.
However, Soedarti said it was too early to pronounce the industry recovered from the terrorist attack.
She said that although there was an increase in tourist arrivals during the last month of 2002, the tourist arrival figure was still 7.15 percent lower than the same period in 2001.
But she acknowledged that recovery in the tourist sector was on the right track.
The terrorist attack on Bali, which claimed nearly 200 lives, dealt a severe blow to Indonesia's tourist sector, which on average contributes US$5 billion to the economy per year.
The attack created a bleak forecast for the country's already dwindling economy as tourism is one of the main drivers of the country's economic growth. The industry is still considered the second largest non-oil and gas foreign exchange earner after the textile and garment industry.
The BPS report also said that foreign exchange earnings from tourism had taken a nose-dive from US$5.4 billion in 2001 to $4.3 billion in 2002.
Before the bombings, the government targeted tourist arrivals at 5.4 million for 2002, while foreign exchange earnings from the industry were estimated at $5.68 billion.
The BPS figure is relatively modest compared to the much bleaker picture painted by many in the wake of the Bali bombings.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism had projected tourist arrivals to plunge by 16.5 percent to 4.3 million in 2002 from the level in 2001.