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Editorial: Thin Pickin's at TIME 2001

Buyer's response at TIME 2001 Travel Show in Jakarta Disappoints. Organizers Blame ATF, But the Problem May be Much Closer to Home.

(9/10/2001) Organizers of the Pasar Wisata 2001 (TIME) scheduled to get underway in Jakarta September 11-15, have reported a disappointing response from International Buyers. A total of only 100 buyers from 20 countries have registered for this year's event - a total 20% less than last year's event.

In explaining the poor response, the Jakarta organizers, quoted in Bisnis Indonesia (6/9/01), are blaming the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2002 scheduled for Jogjakarta in January of next year, saying many buyers have opted to attend that travel exhibition instead of Jakarta's event scheduled for this year.

Whatever the arguments and whatever face is put on it, the simple fact remains that TIME 2001 has failed to attract the volume and quality of buyers that are the single barometer of such an event's success. In fact, the 100 buyers claimed by the organizers come from much fewer than 100 buying companies with two and sometimes more buyers from a single company being counted as separate buyers and at least one of the "buyers" listed in the pre-show information, in fact, an Indonesian "seller" listing their inbound services under their company description.

Perhaps ATF's date proximity played a role in the poor turnout. However, a half-hearted, unprofessional approach to buyer recruitment and enquiry handling most certainly also contributed to the lackluster showing of buyers at this week's event. A website for the event that should have been up and running a year ago only appeared 2 months before the event; problems in securing confirmation of discounted air from international carriers; fees charged for buyer's participation in the Mart; and poor handling of buyer enquiries - all meant that TIME 2001 became something less than it might have been. To cite just one case that seems to exemplify the prevailing lack of good organizational back-up for the Mart, 5 major Event Organizers from Europe originally recruited for TIME 2001 will spend the period designated for the show in Bali, claiming the lack of a response from the Jakarta organizers caused them to decide to bypass the travel exhibition completely.

There is no doubt that the easiest human pastime is criticism. It requires little talent and less energy than actually trying to contribute something concrete to overcome a problem. And it is also, admittedly, somewhat unfair to criticize the Jakarta organizers who have tried to stitch the TIME 2001 event together with no financial support from the Government and operating during past troubled months of political uncertainty. Nonetheless, in the real world of international tourism marketing, excuses are about as useful as they are interesting.

On the heels of the lackluster performance of the recent Bali Travel Mart and this week's forecasted middling performance of TIME 2001, Indonesian travel markets would do well to remember the rule of the 5 P's: namely, Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

When it comes to competitive travel marketing, in a region of the world characterized by well-funded and professionally organized promotional programs, the national tendency of being satisfied with getting an "A" for effort is proving about as exciting as kissing your own sister.