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A Minister at Loggerheads with His Industry?

Criticism of Minister Wacik's Performance as Minister of Culture & Tourism Intensifies.


Bali News: A Minister at Loggerheads with His Industry?
Click Image to Enlarge

(10/16/2006)

The criticism against Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, as reported by balidiscovery.com [ Tourism Minister to Be Ousted in Cabinet Reshuffle? ], is appearing to sharpen and steadily mount, based on evidence of the growing chorus of criticism and the resulting sharp rebuttal from Minister Wacik.

The Indonesian language Bali Post reports that a distinguished list of "founding fathers" of Indonesian tourism including Sany Sumakno, Tuty Sunario, Pontjo Sutowo, Ahmad Zacky, Sirnadj and Didien Junaedy recently gathered together in a Forum for Tourism Dialogue (FDP) to exchange views on the current condition of the industry.

According to Pontjo Sutowo, Chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Think Tank (MPI), Indonesia managed to achieve its highest rate of development back in 1996 when 6 million foreign visitor spent an estimated US$6 billion in foreign exchange. However, according to Sutowo, the advent of Indonesia's political reformation marked the beginning of a steady decline in the country's tourism fortunes. Sutowo said that there is a basic difference of perception between professionals in tourism and their counterparts in the public sector.

Sutowo, the former Chairman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), admitted that a spirit to rebuild national tourism does exist together with a political will to do something constructive, as evidenced by the "tourism summit" of the Presidential cabinet convened by President Yudhoyono last year at the Tampaksiring Palace in Bali. Sutowo did, however, express surprise at the lack of follow up on the decisions made at that meeting. Similarly, he claims, there has been little follow-through on Parliament's initiative to draft a new basic law on tourism.

While crediting Minister Wacik as a Minister who is spirited and enthusiastic, Sutowo says the tourism minister has fundamentally failed to prioritize his work and identify the major tasks at hand. To dramatize his point, the MPI Chairman points to the drastic drop in Australian arrivals to Bali and the diplomatic tensions between Indonesia and Australia following the refugee status extended to a group of Papuan rebels. "This (situation) should have created a scale of priority that stressed better relations through tourism," insisted Sutowo.

In an even sterner mode, Sutowo told the Bali Post that the Minister has yet to form strategic policies to advance national tourism. Moreover, he insists there have been fatal errors, such as the sudden cancellation of the Asia Pacific Nation Tourism Organizations Conference and Exhibition scheduled for Yogyakarta in November 2006. Sutowo explained that if the Tourism ministry enjoyed better communication with the Indonesian travel industry this event would not have been cancelled; citing how aggressively Indonesia had fought to win the right to host the event.

Nyoman S. Pendit

Balinese tourism figure Nyoman S. Pendit told the Bali Post of his concerns on how tourism was on the retreat on several fronts. He cited the drop in tourism arrivals, issues of access, infrastructure limitations and problems of human resources as emblematic of areas suggesting a lack of proper government attention.

Also saddening to the tourism observer is the lack of overseas Indonesian tourism promotion offices. He explained that Indonesia has no overseas tourism representation while competing destinations maintain a strong foreign presence. According to Pendit, Singapore has 16 overseas tourism offices, Australia 17, Malaysia 22, Thailand 15 and the Philippines 12.

Tuti Sunario and Sani Soemakno

The Bali Post reports that Tuti Sunario and Sani Soemakno of the group Care Tourism expressed similar dismay, blaming the downturn in tourism numbers on the lack of cooperation and coordination between the private and public sector in addressing tourism development issues.

In separate comments to balidiscovery.com, Tuti Sunario explained that the role of responsbility of the Department of Culture and Tourism in developing national tourism remains unclear, making it difficult to asses or evaluate the Departmet's basic job performance. Sunario also pointed to the seeming "disconnect" between the stated desires of Indonesian tourism officials for greater access to certain markets (e.g. China and the Middle East) and the lack of support for these iniatives from natioal air carriers.

Ray Suryawijaya

The Vice-chairman of the Bali Chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), Ray Suryawijaya told the Bali Post that the government lacks a clear view of the role to be played by the tourism sector. As a result, he insists government policies in support of tourism from the tourism ministry or other government agencies are few and far between. This occurs despite the fact that an estimated 7.5 million Indonesians work in tourism representing a 9.4% share to the gross domestic product.

While foreign tourism contributed an estimated US$5 billion in foreign exchange in 2005 and domestic tourism generated Rp. 70 trillion (approximately US$7.6 billion), only US$3 million was invested by the Government for the promotion of tourism.

I Gusti Kade Sutawa

Local tourism player, I Gusti Kade Sutawa, added his dismay to the dialogue, saying that his impression is that aid and assistance following the 2005 bombing was late in coming. Not only has funding been slow and difficult, he contends that critical momentum has been lost and programs now underway are non-contextual.

Putu Agus Antara

In a separate article in the Bali Post, the past-chairman of the Bali Tourism Board (BTB), Putu Agus Antara, said that Minister Wacik, while initially fueling hopes of definitive action on behalf of tourism, has largely failed to make a difference. "Pak Wacik has yet to bring anything new to national tourism," explained Putu.

Putu told the Bali Post that the Minister's department has generally failed to inspire the tourism industry in a whole range of critical areas including branding, marketing and communication. In the current unhappy state of national tourism, Putu warned, don't be surprised that funding remains small, sluggish and lacking in direction.


More information: Minister Wacik Responds

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