Indonesia Tourism: Where are you headed?

Indonesia Tourism Where are you headedGeographically, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic state which comprises of more than 17 thousand islands, straddling equator situated between Asia and Australia continent. It offers perfect nature tourism destination choices: mountainous view to climb, tropical rainforests to trek, enchanting beaches to surf, captivating coral reefs, snow-capped mount, beautiful lakes, spectacular crater, and charming waterfall. Of course, recognized as one of the most diverse state with more than 500 different ethnics and languages, Indonesia offers dozens of cultural centres, ancient kingdoms, wonderful Hindu and Buddhist temples, cultural festivals, and more. Those can be strategic modal used to raise national income in realizing people welfare. Unfortunately, the government has attracted about seven millions foreign tourists visiting in 2010 which is smaller compared to neighbouring Malaysia with more than three times visitors in the same year.

Half-Hearted Policy

The government of Indonesia launched the “Sapta Pesona” (seven enchantments) concept in 1980s that was aimed to raise awareness and responsibility for government, private sector, and civil society that should be implemented in daily activities. The seven enchantments are safe, orderly, clean, cool, beautiful, warm-hearted and memories. First, safe means to make tourist destination giving tranquillity and free from worry. Second, orderly means tourist destination reflects discipline, well-ordered and professional, so it gives perfect comfort. Third, clean means tourist destination services reflect cleanliness and health, so it will give cosiness. Fourth, cool means a cool and shady tourist destination makes tourists feel like at home. Fifth, beautiful means tourist destination reflects beautiful and attractiveness which gives ravishment and impression. Sixth, warm-hearted reflects the intimate ambiance, smiley face, and sincerely hospitality. Seventh, a memory means tourist destination visit experiences impress beautiful memories which encourage revisiting.

The seven enchantments concept above basically is excellent. But, it has been realized yet due to many constraints and challenges. The safety is often threatened by terrorism, the orderliness is always disturbed by irresponsible actors, people litters anywhere, the minimum facilities of tourist destination is remaining ordinary and etc. What does it mean? The charming concept is remaining a good written. However, government has no clear vision to develop the Indonesia tourism with great eagerness and enthusiasm. Thus, it’s in vain. The richness of diverse culture and wonderful nature are remaining an imaginary pride.

The odd fact is the Indonesian tourism slogan changed from “Ultimate in Diversity” to “Wonderful Indonesia”. The first slogan means diversity of Indonesia in terms of ethnics, language, religion, ideology and groups which exists in harmony; as well as ultimate in six tourism sectors namely adventure, culture & heritage, diving & cruising, golf, shopping and spa. The second slogan means the superiority of Indonesia among other countries in terms of nature, culture, food, people and value for money. We can see how unwarranted of slogan change-policy is. Both slogans are nearly the same meaning. It can be seen that government of Indonesia aims to imitate other countries ‘slogan which use two-words such as Incredible India, Amazing Thailand, Uniquely Singapore and so on. However, the slogan change is not followed by clear breakthrough and futuristic planning.

What goes wrong with Indonesia’s tourism management? In my opinion, it includes: First, there is no independent tourism institution to engage. We can compare with Singapore Tourism Board and Tourism Malaysia which have successfully attracted million foreigners. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is a single authority in terms of managing tourism resources. Second, there is no national futuristic tourism roadmap. It can be seen that every province, regency or municipality has different policies which lack of cooperation or coordination. We can prove it in Toba Lake management which involves more than 8 regencies, as well as Mount Bromo tourism object which involves more than 3 regencies. Both Toba Lake’s and Mount Bromo’s case generated dispute among regencies. Generally, government seems to be more focusing on how much income they will receive from the retribution rather than how to manage to provide world-class services. Third, the quality of human resources is still low both hard and soft skill in tourism. Fourth, low budget yet high corruption. Fifth, low creativity from government in terms of media promotion. Our government remains emphasizing tourism promotion through international fair/exhibition and brochures which are ineffective, inefficient, and unattractive. We can compare to Malaysia whose tourism board branch is in many countries and emphasizes its promotion in cable television, attractive websites, social network media, magazines, radios and cooperate with world class airlines. Sixth, Indonesia is geographically prone to natural disaster namely tsunami, earthquake, and flood. It is without doubt that disaster may happen at anytime and quickly destroy public facilities.

It is time to the government of Indonesia to strengthen commitment on mobilizing support from all sectors like finance, telecommunication, public works, transportation and so on. The ministry of culture and tourism’s performance has to be supported with a strong cooperation among multi-stakeholders. Government must understand that it’s a multiplier effect which creates jobs and raise national income. Inevitably, Indonesia should see how important tourism industry development to strengthen national economy and social welfare. Furthermore, we are going forward to the 2015 ASEAN Community whose three pillars namely economic, political-security and socio-cultural. Is Indonesia ready to compete with excellent tourism industry of neighbouring countries?

Agung Setiyo Wibowo

Agung Setiyo WibowoCo-founder of Indonesian Tourism & Culture Ambassador Association (IDBUDPARINDO) & Junior Communication Assistant-Partnership for Governance Reform (Kemitraan)

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