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(1/4/2009) Radar Bali January 1, 2009 edition carried an interview with Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, conducted by Ketut Ari Teja. That interview, examining the past and future performance of Indonesia's tourism sector, is freely translated below.
Interview: Jero Wacik, Minister of Culture and Tourism.
Radar Bali: What were the successes of (Indonesian) tourism in 2008?
Jero Wacik: Before we discuss any success in 2008, I must first talk about the success achieved in 2007. Only after looking at 2007, can we discuss success in 2008 and targets for 2009.
Radar Bali: What was achieved in 2007 or 2008?
Jero Wacik: In 2007 (Indonesian) tourism achieved amazing success. Moreover, it achieved the best-ever record in our history. It even surpassed the success recorded in the years prior to the terrorist acts of Amrozi (2002) and his associates which undermined the very foundations of Bali's tourism.
Radar Bali: Can you illustrate your point with numbers?
Jero Wacik: Foreign tourists totaled 5.5 million. Foreign exchange earnings hit US$5.3 billion. If converted to Indonesian Rupiahs that's Rp. 60 trillion. Those are the results for 2007 and represent a national record. Indonesia had never before attracted that many foreign tourists. The results for 2008 are even more dramatic.
Radar Bali: Such as?
Jero Wacik: Now, let me explain what was achieved in 2008 where results surpassed even the records set in 2007. This new high record in our history will see 6.4 million foreign arrivals. That's an increase of 900,000 when compared to 2007.
Radar Bali: How much foreign exchange has been earned?
Jero Wacik: The news is even better when viewed from the standpoint of foreign exchange. The average spent by each foreign tourist is US$1,178. If that amount is multiplied by 6.4 million tourists the total is US$7.51 billion (sic) or more than Rp. 80 trillion. This amount makes tourism the biggest source of foreign exchange after the natural resource sector.
Radar Bali: How were we able to achieve that kind of success in 2008?
Jero Wacik: The answer to that question is the program launched by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2008 - "Visit Indonesia Year." Just so you know, many people tried to stop me from launching this program. Many were pessimistic because our airports are not ready and our immigration service is not so good. But I forced these people who were not ready. In the beginning there were obvious stumbles. Garuda, Immigration and the airports were confused. Nevertheless, once underway, immigration in Bali which had only 10 service gates was revamped and now has 30 gates. Garuda was even late installing the logo for Visit Indonesia Year 2007. But I used my authority as the Minister of Culture and Tourism and continued to lobby (for the program's acceptance.)
Later, Angkasa Pura (the management authority at the Cengkareng airport built 200 new toilets. In the end, everyone supported "Visit Indonesia Year" leading to the success we achieved in 2008. If we're talking success, 1991's "Visit Indonesia Year" was an even bigger success.
Radar Bali: How did Bali experience this advance in tourism?
Jero Wacik: Bali made history in 2007 with 1.7 million visitors. This was a record number of arrivals. Bapak Nurjaya (Chief of tourism for the Province of Bali) knows this, and Bapak Pitana (the former Chief of tourism for Bali) also knows this. However, in the time of Bapak Pitana this level of arrivals were never achieved. For "Visit Indonesian Year 2008" Bali targeted 1.9 foreign visitors. I rounded that figure up to 2 million. I am confident (this figure) can happen, although the final figures have yet to be announced. I am confident that 2 million can be achieved (for 2008). Firm 2009 targets have yet to be announced.
Radar Bali: Does this mean that 2009 will see the launch of "Visit Indonesia Year 2009"?
Jero Wacik: Because the results were good, the number of visits by foreign tourists were good, and domestic visitor numbers were also good certainly this worthwhile program will be continued while undertaking improvements still to be made. The supporting machinery is warmed up. Thus, we have no choice but to continue with "Visit Indonesia Years 2009." So, I have confirmed that for 2009 I will (again) launch "Visit Indonesia Year" again.
Radar Bali: What's the greatest obstacle confronting tourism in 2009?
Jero Wacik: Our tourism will the affected by the global economic crisis. That will cast a shadow and make things difficult. We calculate that without this crisis, everything would be going smoothly.
Radar Bali: What will be the most concrete effect of this global crisis?
Jero Wacik: Because of this crisis, I am not prepared to increase tourism targets by too much. I have deferred to the World Tourism Organization. The target for tourism growth world wide is set for 2 percent of less or, at the best, 2 percent. I have used this as a benchmark. For 2009 I am only prepared to increase targets by 1 or 2 percent.
Radar Bali: What are the concrete figures
Jero Wacik: Our target for 2009 is not much different from our 2008 target of 6.4 million foreign tourist arrivals. The target I have set for 2009 is around 6.5 million tourists. In terms of foreign exchange, I have estimated an average spend of only US$1,000 per visitor. The possibility is that people will continue to come, but they will not spend much. We will obtain an estimated US$ 6.5 billion a foreign exchange target fare below the target of 2008. The only exception to this will be if there is a rapid recovery from the global crisis.
Radar Bali: This means that the percentage of growth is also down, why aren't we focusing on just quality tourists?
Jero Wacik: Yes, quality has declined. For 2007 and 2008 growth increased 16 percent. Now, the most we can expect is 2 percent increase, globally there is a decline as well. As regards "quality tourists," we are seeking these travelers based on their buying power, as much as possible. But, if the world economy is ailing, it is difficult to make people spend money. Thus, an average spend of US$1,000 per visitor is already very good.
Radar Bali: What are the tactic that will be employed to escape this condition?
Jero Wacik: I'm inclined to look at the large domestic tourism market for 2009. This has to be approached more seriously. Indonesians like to travel. In addition, this is an election year. This has potential for tourism.
Radar Bali: Are you certain that the election year will have a positive impact on tourism visits?
Jero Wacik: If we can safeguard the political process and keep it safe and free from anarchy, why not? I hope that the coming elections are not over-dramatized. This includes the media; don't create unnecessary anxiety about the elections. Relax. We need to be relaxed when we choose leaders. Don't get overheated, be peaceful we are all brothers. If this can be achieved, I am convinced that (the elections) can become a support for tourism, moreover well experience a boom of "political tourists."
Because of this, in this election year there will appear a new business model "political tourism." Just imagine the consolidation of 38 different parties via the leadership of local and national councils as they campaign in every corner of the country. We can already see this starting to happen. So much so that the continuing campaigns will fill accommodation ranging from home stays to five star plus hotels. Time will tell. But the political process must be courteous and peaceful. Even more so in Bali, where there are already a number of political events being organized in ranging from small rallies to large congresses.