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Tourism Needs its Own Department

Political Parties Voice Support for Strengthening Tourism's Role in National Development.

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At a recent forum held in Jakarta entitled The Vision and Commitment of Political Parties to Indonesian Tourism, a number of the country's leading political parties voiced their support for giving the tourism sector a larger representative role in the national policy making process.

The forum, sponsored by the Tourism Journalists Forum for Communication (FORPAR), included panelists from the following political parties: The Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI Perjuangan); People's Awakening Party (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa); The National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional); The New Indonesia Party (Partai Perhimpunan Indonesia Baru); and the People's United Democracy Party (Partai Persatuan Demokrasi Kebangsaan). Also participating in the meeting were representatives from the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) and the Indonesian Conference and Convention Association (INCCA).

Rejecting the Elimination of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism

As reported in the April 3, 2004, edition of the Indonesian-language Bisnis Indonesia, participants at the forum were generally unified in their opposition to current moves to either eliminate the Ministry of Culture and Tourism or amalgamate its functions into another government department.

Adrian Maelite, representing the People's United Democracy Party, said it would be "very sad" if the Ministry of Culture and Tourism were absorbed into another department. He stressed that now is the time for tourism to have a larger voice in order to increase the much needed foreign exchange it generates for the Nation." He added, "in the future tourism must hold the top position (in earning foreign exchanges) and not only be viewed as an alternative (source of foreign exchange)."

The Chairperson of the PHRI, Ms. Yanti Sukamdani, stressed that Indonesia needs a department charged with tourism affairs in order to forge cooperative agreements on a cross-sector basis. Only in this way, according to Ms. Sukamdani, "can tourism generate foreign exchange and create new employment opportunities."

The PHRI Chairperson presented examples that showed how Indonesia was operating in ways contrary to trends elsewhere in the world. She pointed out that Malaysia recently split its culture and tourism departments, giving tourism a "stand-alone" status in government affairs. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia have both recently acknowledged the importance of tourism by creating national tourism departments.

Mr. Ben Sukma, the Chairman of the Indonesian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (ASITA), echoed these sentiments, calling for a return to the style of the 1980's when tourism had its own department in conjunction with the Department of Telecommunications.

Declining Prominence of Tourism Sector

In 1995, tourism generated foreign exchange revenues totaling US$ 5.3 billion, beating out the second-place oil and natural resource sector that tallied US$ 5.2 billion. By 1999 tourism had slipped into decline producing only US$ 4.3 billion outpaced by the oil and natural resource sector at US$ 4.6 billion.

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