West Java falls short in tourism designs
By Yuli Tri Suwarni
BANDUNG (JP): With implementation of regional autonomy looming in 2001, West Java tourist businesses are still experiencing problems concerning their tourist attractions and infrastructure.
While other provinces are already recording their potential tourist attractions to be promoted, West Java has yet to develop a clear proposal. Still, the head of the West Java Tourism Bureau, Memet Handam, has targeted that in 2002 West Java will be visited by 25 million domestic tourists and one million overseas tourists.
The potential is undoubtedly there. A buffer area for Jakarta, West Java is resplendent in its diversity, with the mountain resorts of Puncak, Selanbintana, northern and southern Bandung, plus the Bogor Botanical Gardens and Taman Indonesia Indah safari park combined with stunning coastline.
According to data from 1999 from West Java's Tourist Bureau, the province has 387 tourist attractions, including 210 nature tourism sites, 122 cultural attractions and 55 special places of interest. The attractions are run by the government, state corporations and state regional corporations, the private sectors and village administrators. Unfortunately, 63 sites are without management.
The impact of the monetary crisis has been felt by local tourism businesses. Chairman of the West Java chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association H.S. Hermawan said that foreign tourists staying in hotels or using other accommodation facilities numbered 366,980 in 1999, a decrease of 1.68 percent from the 373,256 in 1998. Likewise, the total domestic tourists staying in hotels also declined; in 1998 there were 5,870,833, but in 1999 the number slumped to 4,784,212, a decrease of 18.5 percent.
"The number of tourists decreased because it was said security in Indonesia was unstable," Hermawan said. Although West Java is known as a safe region, tourists are afraid of coming to West Java because they must land in turmoil-filled Jakarta. Some foreign governments even forbade their citizens to visit Indonesia."
But since January 2000 West Java's hotel and restaurant industries have shown better development. From early last year hotel occupancy, which earlier ranged from 20 percent to 30 percent, has risen sharply. Public relations manager of Bandung's Preanger hotel, Dian Zulkarnain, disclosed that since January this year the hotel's occupancy has consistently been higher than 50 percent.
According to 1999 data from the West Java tourist office, there are 135 star-rated hotels, with 11,175 rooms and 1,021 non- star hotels with 21,459 rooms.
Tourist businesses expect that in 2001 West Java's administration will have a clear framework to develop tourist attractions, or else it will be left behind by other provinces.
The chairman of West Java's Association of Tourist Travel Bureaus, Yachya Machmud, said his group's main complaint was the centralization of most tourist activities in Bandung.
"We have difficulty in promoting other areas beyond Bandung city except for famous places like Pangandaran. The problem is the provincial administration lacks enthusiasm in developing its regional potential," he said.
PT Aerowisata's operational and marketing director Toto K. Sugiarto, said the centralization of tourist activities in Bandung could be a boomerang for businesses.
"Visitors coming to Bandung, who only find traffic jams and are incapable of enjoying its beautiful views, will gradually have no desire to go to Bandung," said Toto.
The lackadaisickal West Java administration must soon improve its tourist attractions outside Bandung if it does not want to lose its fundamental regional income. In 1999 West Java's tourist sector contributed at least Rp 72,065,301,312 to the regional treasury, which was a decrease of 0.6 percent over the year before.
The province also has to take into account the loss of Banten to autonomy; according to the tourist office, among 1999's most visited sites, it was first, with more than 2.5 million tourists taking the sights of old Banten.
The second and third favorite most visited places were the Sari Ater hot springs and Bogor Botanical Gardens, each with 1.1 million visitors. Pagandaran beach, once very popular in the area, recorded 990,000 visitors, and Tangkuban Perahu had 491,000.
Tourism insiders say the main obstacle to developing the areas is a lack of access to the places of interest.
For example, development of Rancabuaya, 100 km from Bandung, has been stalled by a very poor road. This is despite the fact it is near a beautiful area of coastline, its waves are ideal for surfing and the fast-flowing rivers have potential for rafting activities.
Yachya said it would not be difficult for West Java's administration to upgrade and organize its tourist areas because it is a prime source of manpower.
Another problem is the mismanagement of natural tourist sites. According to Hermawan, the general impression of tourists to West Java is that almost all tourist programs are unprofessionally managed.
"Tourist attractions seem to show up as malnutritiously fed milch cows because of their managerial incapability, and the local administration tends to avoid taking responsibility."
A concrete example is Pangandaran beach, which has lost is former luster. The shore is dirty, and the glut of vendors detracts from its beautiful views.
However, well-organized sites like Subang's Sari Ater hot springs and Taman Safari continue to attract visitors.
"Because of the comfort enjoyed by these visitors, normally they have a good impression of the attractions, so they have a desire to come again," said Hermawan.