Sat, 25 Aug 2001

Wither Indonesian tourism? Saving Indonesia's tourist industry

By Imam Syafii

JAKARTA (JP): With the appointment of Indonesia's new president and vice president, followed by the installment of the Gotong Royong Cabinet, the country's tourist industry hopes the new government will bring political stability and economic growth.

It is also time to call for synergy among the authorities and tourist-related associations to promote Indonesia's name and mission to a wider audience, instead of performing individual promotional stints, which only highlight particular regions.

A good example is the recent setup of the Asian Hotels Alliance (AHA), which includes Dusit Hotels and Resorts (Thailand), Landis Hotels and Resorts (Taiwan), Marcopolo Hotel Group (Hong Kong), Meritus Hotels and Resorts (Singapore) and New Otani Hotels (Japan). AHA aims at combining the marketing strengths of each member hotel. A similar concept was established earlier in Bali, featuring cooperation, in terms of promotion and information exchange, among the hotels in the Tuban area.

Signs of a stronger mission from the tourist industry is also reflected by the joining of forces among the Indonesia Tourism Community and Jakarta Promotion under the coordination of the state minister of culture and tourism. This cooperation aims at creating something unique yet exquisite, given the country's rich culture heritage.

Further action to be given serious consideration is the development of an annual sales and promotion action plan, which can be broken down into monthly targets. The media must be involved to balance views on the political and security situation, so that not only Bali is promoted but also the whole country.

Travel agents play an important role in creating the awareness of Indonesia as a popular destination as they have direct contact with international customers. They can invite their international travel partners here; remember, seeing is believing.

Another potential market segment, which still needs serious exploration is the Meeting, Incentive, Conference and Exhibition (MICE) Industry. It must be stressed in promotions that international conferences or meetings in Indonesia would give participants an opportunity to experience a unique atmosphere.

Before the monetary crisis hit the country in 1997, the number of MICE events held in Indonesia were on average 1,116 events per year and projected events for 2002-2003 will most likely be the same.

Nonetheless, achieving this target needs four requisites: A sense of urgency to win back the lost market segment, a sense of creating unique activities, a high sense of business and a sense of confidence -- in the sense of being proud of the products we offer.

These requisites are crucial, given that the hotel rooms in Indonesia, now about 252,000, only have a 40 percent occupancy rate per year, or about 151,200 empty rooms per year. If there is on average one room to 1.5 employees, there will a potential for 226,800 new recruits per year in the hotel industry alone, not to mention the employment opportunities in other tourist-related industries.

The writer is director of sales and promotion at Dusit Mangga Dua Jakarta and chief of public relations for the Indonesian Exhibition Companies Association.