Sun, 10 Oct 1999

Travelers defy economic crisis

JAKARTA (JP): The country's currency, the rupiah, is still fighting hard against the U.S. dollar. But watching packed international waiting rooms at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, or seeing advertisements offering overseas tours in the media, you might be inclined to think that the situation is getting better.

At least the economic situation is fine for Astrid, not her real name, who has just returned from Amsterdam to attend the wedding of her daughter to a Dutch man.

"I only stayed in Amsterdam for about a week, but I managed to travel to London and Paris before the wedding," said the woman aboard a KLM flight to Jakarta via Singapore.

It was her second trip to Europe and this time she spent three weeks in the three countries. "It's a waste of money if you only go to one country while you have the opportunity to go to others with the same visa," she said.

Asked what she did in the countries she visited, she smiled, saying "Shopping." But she refused to disclose the amount of money she spent on the entire trip.

The mother of three defended herself, saying she did not spend as much money as other tourists. "Most of my expenses were for buying air tickets, but I didn't pay anything for hotels in London as I stayed with my relatives," said Astrid, who was traveling with her younger daughter.

Another traveler, Inti Nusantari Subagyo goes abroad twice a year to spend her holidays with her family.

"Everyone should find the time to have a vacation and forget about their daily routine," said the woman, who most of the time visits her two children in Oregon, in the United States, but also manages to travel around Europe and other countries.

She loves Paris most. "The city has a rich culture with its old buildings and fashionable people. It's very beautiful," Inti said.

She has visited the Netherlands several times while accompanying her husband on official trips. "I don't like it, it's windy... but I wanted to see it, maybe because of the emotional attachment. I heard about it many times before from my parents," Inti said.

"But it feels like home there with some many Indonesians and friendly people who maybe also have an emotional attachment with us. And there are also lots of Indonesian restaurants," she added.

Even though many Indonesians travel overseas for various reasons, business or pleasure, their numbers are getting fewer due to the impact of the economic crisis.

Iwata Nusantara tours and travel's director, Meity Robot, is confident that despite the slow improvement in the country's economy, there is still a market for travel agencies promoting tours abroad.

She contributed Indonesians' enthusiasm to spend holidays abroad to strong promotions by other countries.

"See for yourself, there are plenty of tourism promotions to lure Indonesians, say, to celebrate the coming millennium," Meity said.

She said local travel agencies wished they were able to do the same thing, luring foreign tourists to celebrate the new century here, but realized that it would be difficult since it would be the same time as the fasting month of Ramadhan, when usually no parties are held.

Marketing officer of K.I.A. Tours & Travel, Eddy Kurniawan, revealed that up to end of the year the agency has received requests from plenty of customers who are interested in spending their vacations in destinations such as Europe, Australia and Singapore.

"The most popular destinations in Europe are the Netherlands and London," Eddy told The Jakarta Post by phone.

He said that most Indonesians taking European tours ask to visit the Netherlands toward the end of their trips.

In the Netherlands, they would then extend their stay and go back home on their own. Some of them even have relatives which they usually stay with," Eddy said.

Amsterdam, the capital of Holland, attracts some 1.9 million tourists, who stay a total of some four million nights.

And according to the Netherlands Board of Tourism (NBT), 15,702 Indonesians tourists visited the Netherlands last year.

Ika Paulinawati Indra, the Indonesian representative of NBT, which opened in May last year, noticed many Indonesians were interested in visiting the Netherlands either because of historical reasons or to learn about its rich culture.

"At the moment, we don't have the latest figures of Indonesian tourists in the Netherlands, but I think the situation has improved since the beginning of this year and I hope it will get better and better." (ste)