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Editorial: Chop Suey Management

Bird of Prey Will Play: Struggle Over Control of Chinese Inbound Market Continues.

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Indonesia's failure to conceptualize a professional approach to the Chinese travel market, highlighted in Bali Update #298, entered a new phase this week when the members of the purpose-formed oversight body - The Indonesia-China Travel Commission (ICTC), voted to return the role of coordinating the Chinese market to the Indonesian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (ASITA) .

Apparently unhappy with the management of the ICTC, citing a lack of transparency, decisions to suddenly impose substantial financial guarantees on its members, and efforts to reduce from 86 to 19 the number of tour operators officially licensed to do business with tourist from the People's Republic of China, the members of the consortium voted to return the mandate on Chinese travel back to ASITA. The dramatic move was approved by a vote of 42 to 16, among the 58 members of 86 member strong ICTC attending a July meeting in Jakarta.

Quoted in the Indonesian-language Bali Post, Mr. I Gusti Bagus Yidhara echoed the thoughts of those who voted against the ICTC, saying he hoped that the future handling of the Chinese travel market would not created a complicated bureaucracy that only serves to burden members of the travel industry. Mr. Yudhara is the Chairman of the Bali Chapter of ASITA.

If It's Not Broke, Don't Fix It strongly supports Mr. Yudhara's sentiments and goes one step further by suggesting that the policy adopted by the Government in issuing "special licenses" to travel agents permitted to handle the Chinese market is fundamentally flawed.

Despite the requests of PRC diplomats for such a policy, the simple fact remains that the challenges of handling the Chinese traveler are easily within the capabilities of any licensed Indonesian tour operator who chooses to handle this market.

Are the needs of the Chinese visitors really that much more complex than those of the Russian, Italian, French, or any other national group? We think not.

Arguments that licensing is needed to avoid victimization of the Chinese traveler to Indonesia are, we believe, largely a smoke screen. One only need point to the fact that travel agents who had long ceased operations somehow managed to make it through the first screening of those designated to handle the Chinese market as proof that the licensing process was never really about the needs of the Chinese consumer. Moreover, that monoplistic desires to control this market are at play is further evidenced by the fact that the protracted debates of the past months over who should control the Chinese market consortium have been largely devoid of any discussions on consumer protections for the Chinese consumer.

Despite the grandiose plans of small men to dominate the potentially important Chinese travel market to Indonesia, the irrefutable fact remains that the travel consumer is best served by a large, free, and open market run by travel professionals held to the highest standards of ethics and travel practice.

We are prompted to ask: Does this Chinese Emperor Wear No Clothes?

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