Mon, 08 Aug 1994

Use of Chinese language to boost tourist arrivals

JAKARTA (JP): The government's new policy allowing the use of Chinese characters and language for services in the tourism industry is expected to boost the arrival of tourists from Chinese speaking countries, executives said.

Meity Robot, chairwoman of the Indonesian Chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), told The Jakarta Post on Saturday that the policy is introduced at the right time as the number of travelers around the world is increasing.

She said Indonesia expects to receive some 6.5 million foreign visitors in the last year (1998-99) of the sixth Five Year Development Plan (Repelita VI) period, with Asian countries as the largest suppliers.

The government decided last week to allow the use of Chinese characters in the tourism sector. The government has also allowed limited teachings of Chinese language for hotel employees, shopkeepers and tourist guides. The ban on the use of Chinese characters is still in force but an exception has been made for hoteliers, tour operators and recreation centers for the purpose of informing and entertaining their Chinese patrons.

The ban against the use of the Chinese language in any printed publication is a legacy of the anti-Chinese sentiments that sparked in the mid-1960s. In 1967 Indonesia severed relations with China and also barred the teaching of the Chinese language. Now Indonesia, after the normalization of ties in 1990, is vying for the influx of Chinese tourists and entrepreneurs to support its economic growth.


"By providing brochures in Chinese, we indeed hope that the number of Chinese speaking visitors coming into Indonesia will increase," Meity said.

She said that such brochures will be very helpful both for tourists and travel-related entrepreneurs. "Imagine traveling in a foreign country and no one there speaks or writes our language."

Meity, who is also chairwoman of the Jakarta branch of the Association of Indonesian Travel Agents (Asita), said that the policy supports Indonesia's tourism promotion in the Asian Chinese speaking countries.

Foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia totaled 3.4 million last year, with Singapore as the largest supplier, followed by Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan. Data from the Directorate General of Tourism show no figures concerning tourists from China, with which Indonesia normalized diplomatic ties after a 23-year break.

Tourism observers believed that the tourism industry in China will grow robustly by the year 2000.

An executive of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), Adnan Karamoy, said that besides China, Indonesia and India are also considered as the countries with fast growing tourism industry.

Adnan, who recently attended a tourism forum in Malaysia, said that after several moves to liberalize the economy, China will be the fastest growing travel market, meaning that both outbound and inbound travelers will steadily increase.


An Asita vice chairwoman, Rae Sita Supit, said that travel agents will further study what Chinese tourists are fond of, while preparing brochures in Chinese characters.

She said that cheaper packages on scientific tourism such as that concerning medicine or technology will probably be prepared for Chinese visitors.

"We support the government's move totally and we will prepare special cheap packages which will not affect our business," she said.

Minister of Tourism, Post and Telecommunications Joop Ave said the new policy is an important move to attract Chinese-speaking tourists from prospering mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Joop, who visited China last month, signed a memorandum of understanding for the promotion of cooperation in the tourism industry between the two countries. Based on the agreement, Indonesia and China will launch action plans, including provision of better services and accessibility for Chinese tourists. (icn)