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RIP: Joop Ave 1934 - 2014

The Father of Indonesian Tourism, Joop Ave, Dead at 79

(2/23/2014) Joop Ave, Indonesia's former Minister of Tourism, Post and Telecommunication during the Soeharto era died on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 in Singapore at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

Born in Yogyakarta on December 5, 1934, Ave had a prodigious mind and accompanying gift for languages, working as announcer of Radio Repulik Indonesia French language Service when he was only in his teens. He joined the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1957 and was posted to the Indonesian Consulate General in New York City in 1967, rising quickly to the rank of Consular Affairs in 1972.

In 1972, Ave was called back to Jakarta and put in charge of the Presidential Palace and State Palace from 1972-1978 during which he oversaw and massive renovation and upgrading of the Istana Negara and Instana Merdeka.

Joop Ave's extraordinary abilities as a statesman and planner were called to the fore for his next assignment as the Director General of Protocol and Consular Affairs from 1978-1982 where he trained young diplomats and coordinated visits by visiting heads of State to Indonesia and overseas visits by the Indonesian Head of State.

In 1982, Joop Ave was appointed the Indonesian Director General of Tourism, remaining Indonesia's pivotal leader on tourism matters until his retirement as Tourism, Post and Telecommunications Minister in 1998.

It would be impossible to overstate Ave's influence on the Indonesian tourism industry. What he lacked in funds to drive his ambitious tourism goals for Indonesia, he made up in charm and sheer force of personality. Eloquently persuasive in his native Indonesia, English, French, German and Dutch, Ave cajoled his fellow Indonesians and foreigners alike to help him drive tourism development. Traveling the globe, he brought his considerable force of personality; mesmerizing international audiences and launching charm offenses that listeners found impossible to resist.

Assuming responsibility in 1982, when tourism was not yet a cabinet post and foreign tourist arrivals totaled only around 400,000, he single-handedly took on the Indonesian cabinet and Parliament, winning a hard-fought battle to grant visas-on-arrival. In one memorable exchange when a military leader dismissed his plans for freer access as a threat to National security, Ave had the fortitude to take a firm stand, reminding the military that the potential jobs and employment created by tourism provided "real" security to the Nation. 

Winning the argument and the day, Indonesia's meteoritic rise in tourism fortunes dates from the change in visa policy he pioneered and Ave's advent onto the tourism scene. His legacy today is that Indonesia welcomed more than 8.8 million tourists in 2013 generating some US$10.1 billion in foreign exchange.

While Joop Ave's lasting impact on national tourism is too expansive to enumerate here, in Bali, his visionary leadership is credited with the creation of the Bali Tourism Development Corporation that built the Nusa Dua Complex that is home to more than 4,000 hotel rooms, a championship golf course, entertainment-shopping-restaurant center, and modern hospital.

Ave also served in a number leadership roles in international tourism including chairman of the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Tourism (1983-1986) and the PATA Board of Directors (1984-1986). He is also credited with writing a number of books about Indonesian culture, history and tourism.

In failing health for the past nine years, Joop Ave had recently made his home in Bali.

He was accorded an honor guard and military honors at a funeral service held on Friday evening, February 7, 2014 and a cremation ceremony held in Bali the following day. In keeping with Balinese traditions his ashes were committed to the Indian Ocean following the cremation at sunset on Saturday, February 8, 2014.