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Developing a Tourism Vision for Tomorrow

Tuti Sunario – a Much Respected Senior Figure in Indonesian Tourism, Outlines Lessons Learned and the Challenges Ahead.

(10/23/2006) Ibu Wuryastuti Sunario has spent her entire professional life working on behalf of Indonesian tourism. "Ibu Tuti," the editor of "Indonesia Digest" - an e-zine published by Strategic Communications that succinctly analyses Indonesian current affairs "in a nutshell." Formerly, she held the post of Managing Director of the Indonesian Tourism Promotion Board (ITPB) which valiantly tried to put national tourism promotion on higher, more professional plane. She has also served as the Director of the Indonesian Tourism Promotion Board for ASEAN, Taiwan and Hong Kong from a regional office in Singapore. She also once headed Indonesia's tourism promotion office in the United States.

When asked by balidiscovery.com for her views on the current state of Indonesia's tourism industry, she very kindly supplied the comments below.

Lessons Learnt From The Past in Constructing an Indonesian Tourism Vision For Tomorrow


By Tuti Sunario


In 1965 Indonesia started to develop Tourism almost from scratch. Those of us who were committed to Tourism, both within and outside government, actually knew very little how to organize and manage tourism. Therefore, many of us just followed our instincts, but most resorted to following Tourism Destination Management courses, in academies abroad, or through correspondence courses.

Thus we found experts agreeing that there are unchangeable basic principles and realities in developing Tourism, which are, as follows:

• If in any other production of goods, the product is transported (or exported) to the consumer, in Tourism, it is the consumer – the tourist – who must travel through, or experience the entire process to enjoy the product/service he or she requires. People must want to travel to Bali or Borobudur, for example, to enjoy the product. Bali or Borobudur can not be brought to the tourist (except now through secondary means of TV or film – but the experience is still different).

• Unlike other commodities, Tourism and Airline services can not be stored or stocked, to be sold later. Therefore, services not sold today are lost sales, as they can not be sold later. Therefore, continuous marketing and sales are essential.

• Another basic fact is that the tourist supply is rigid, whereas the tourist demand is very elastic. This means that the number of hotel rooms or aircraft seats available cannot be added or reduced overnight to adjust to market demand. Nor can a destination or a hotel be moved elsewhere when demand slumps.

• On the other hand, consumer demand may peak today and die tomorrow. Some experts even compare this phenomenon to swarms of locusts that are suddenly here today but gone tomorrow. Therefore, when, tourists suddenly avoided Bali as a result of past bombings, these tourists have many options to holiday elsewhere, and may or may not return to Bali.

• Because it is the tourist who must go through the process (from getting a visa, to buying an airline ticket, book hotel rooms etc., and enjoy these services) this means that each stakeholders in the production chain must work together to satisfy the need of that one single tourist. This follows that the government (this means national and regional governments) cannot do it alone. The private sector cannot work alone, communities cannot succeed alone, and airlines cannot do it alone. Therefore, in order to succeed, Tourism must be a joint and synchronized effort between government, airlines, the tourist industry and communities, and not to forget the media, to make it work within a specific timeframe.

• Since economic feasibility demands that there are economies of scale, meaning, that there must be sufficiently large numbers of consumers within a given timeframe to guarantee returns of investments, the marketing and sales of a tourist destination and its services must be guaranteed ahead of production.

That is the reason why, it is not enough for a destination or a country merely to campaign its "image" alone, separately from creating guaranteed sales, since this will be a waste of effort and expenses. Thus, although, "destination image" creation is a function of government, and "sales" is a function of the private sector, if it is for this reason alone, that the government and the private sector – including airlines – must work together in tandem to succeed, and not each going its own way.

• A number of positive actions that were made in the past to develop Indonesia's tourism, that can become lessons learnt for today is that the hosting of major international events were created as rallying points for cooperation among all tourism stakeholders, - from national government to communities - to reach the next milestone.

These are for example Indonesia’s hosting of 1974 PATA Conference in Jakarta and Bali, PATA Conference 1991 in Jakarta, the ASEAN Travexes held in Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya, activating the Visit Indonesia Year 1991, the Visit ASEAN Year 1992, the Visit Indonesia Decade, and similar. These are milestones that were designated not only to become "promotional tools," but were meant to accelerate new investments in tourism. Many new hotels and convention facilities that were built just "for the sake of" PATA 74, PATA 91, were in fact built to be the next stepping stones to become the bases for further development, in making Indonesia into a major world tourist destination.

New rules and regulations were also made by the government to facilitate growth, which included visa-free facilities for major tourist markets, reduction in the tourism tax for visitors, etc. Structurally, the Public-Private sector Partnership was formalized in the establishment of Indonesia’s Tourism Promotional Offices abroad, the creation of the Indonesia Tourism Promotion Board, and the establishment of Pasar Wisata, Tourism Indonesia Mart and Expo (TIME).

In 1996, through such gradual and systematic growth, Indonesia managed to receive 5 million tourists.

• Since "Reformasi" in 1997, Indonesia experienced large transformations, from a highly centralized government to a very decentralized and democratic government. More than 440 autonomous regions have been created, transferring most powers from national government down to grass roots level. This includes Tourism.

Unfortunately, how this democratic, political transformation actually translates into real terms affecting Tourism destination development and the Tourism Supply, Marketing and Distribution chain has not been worked out until today.

This, I see as the major cause why Indonesia’s Tourism today seems to be fragmented, and therefore, losing its power and strength in competitiveness.

Latest ASEAN statistics of 2005 show that, while tourist arrivals to Indonesia have remained stagnant for almost one decade at around 5 million, other neighboring countries have shot ahead. In 2005, Malaysia received 16.4 million tourists, Thailand 11.5 million, Singapore 8.9 million. While Vietnam, a latecomer in ASEAN is closing in at 3.4 million visitors.

• In the meantime, in the past decade, the world has also moved rapidly into globalization and "Liberalization" while Indonesia was forced to look inward because of the many structural and political changes experienced. However, globalization and liberalization are today upon us, whether we agree to it or not, whether we like it or now. While we – including us in Tourism - are far from ready to be a competitive player in this new game.

Therefore, to come at par and become a respected player, first, Indonesia urgently needs a new Vision as how we – in this new constellation of the new Indonesian democracy on the one hand and present world realities in international politics and economy, on the other hand, can remain competitive. For us this means: How can Indonesia's Tourism r

 

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