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Will Clinton Visit Spark More U.S. Visitors to Indonesia?

Tour Operators Urged to Create Obama Heritage Tours.

(3/3/2009) The Director General of Marketing for the Department of Culture and Tourism, Sapta Nirwandar, told Bisnis.com that he hoped the recent visit of American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will stimulate U.S. tourism to Indonesia, particularly in the fast growing cruise sector.

According to Nirwandar, the average expenditure by U.S. tourists in Indonesia, such as the diving sector, can reach us$3,000 in 10 days a figure that does not include souvenir shopping and air expenditures. He estimated that only some 150,000 American divers visited Indonesia in 2008.

Obama Heritage Tours?

In the midst of the current global financial crisis, Nirwandar admitted the U.S. is not seen as a main market for Indonesia. Due to reduced spending power, the government has chosen to focus its attention on regional markets as opposed to long-haul traffic.

Nonetheless, the tourism official is hoping that the emotional attachment President Barack Obama has with Indonesia, where he spent 4 years of his youth, can be used to push U.S. travel to Indonesia. What's more, the United Nation's World Travel Organization (UNWTO) has even gone so far as to suggest that Indonesia create Obama Heritage Tours to sell to visiting U.S. travelers.

Underling President Obama's close ties with Indonesia, Secretary Clinton took the opportunity to be photographed with students from Grade School No. 1 from Jakarta's Menteng District, President Obama's alma mater. Nirwandar is convinced that the enthusiasm shown for America's new President will cause many U.S. travels to retrace the childhood steps of their current President through Indonesia.

Nirwandar has called on the tourism industry to proactively pursue the idea of Obama Heritage Tours, in accordance with the suggestion of the UNWTO, and reflecting statements from President Obama who promises a range of "people to people" contacts between the Republic of Indonesia and the United States of America. Suggested inclusions for such a tour would have visits to President Obama's former residence, school, culinary experiences and visits to place visited by Obama during his Indonesian childhood.