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ASITA Protests China Tour Licensing Policy

Indonesia Tour & Travel Association Claims New Policy is Monopolistic and Collusive.

(8/30/2001) The Jakarta branch of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agents (ASITA), have issued a strong protest in response to the Government of Indonesia's recent appointment of 29 travel agents to enjoy an exclusive right to handle tourists from China.

Mr. Masri Mahmud, the Chairman of the By-Laws and Regulations Section of ASITA has termed the Ministerial decree issued on June 29 naming 29 travel agents to handle the Chinese market as tainted with "collusion, corruption and discrimination."

Commenting further, Mr. Mahmud explained, "It would be best if the Minister of Culture and Tourism opens the permits process as wide as possible and not limit it to just 29 travel agents." Accordingly, ASITA has urged the Minister to revoke his earlier decision and open the opportunity to serve the Chinese market to all Indonesian travel agents.

On a somewhat ironic note it has been pointed out that 4 of the 29 travel agencies granted the special licenses have ceased operations.

In a further move that has raised the ire of ASITA, the 29 travel agencies appointed by the Ministry have already formed an alliance calling itself the Indonesia China Travel Commission. Such a grouping is seen by ASITA as a rival to their role to represent all Indonesian travel operators.

Commenting further of the Government's special sub-category of licenses solely to serve the Chinese market, Mr. M. Taufik of the Indonesian Tourism Think Tank (MPPI), said the appointment of 29 agents by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism left the community with a "monopolistic and collusive" impression. He suggested the decision should be revoked and any special procedures for handling the Chinese market should be left to the existing travel association.

In a strong rebuttal to criticism of the new policy, Mr. Robertus Sawono, Director General of Tourism Products for the Culture and Tourism Ministry, has denied any mishandling in the selection process for the 29 tour companies authorized to handle the Chinese market. Challenging critics of the policy, he said "If there are regional offices of ASITA unhappy with the process, let them present proof. If necessary, bring legal charges. We are ready to defend our actions."

The Ministry is adamant in insisting the selection process was transparant and involved a wide cross-section of the tourism community in the deliberations.(BISNIS INDONESIA, 25 & 30 August 2001)