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Welcome! Ibu Pangestu!

Editorial: Can the New Minister of Tourism Give Indonesia the Professional Tourism Organization it So Desperately Needs?

(10/23/2011) The appointment of Maria Elka Pangestu as Indonesia’s new Minister of Tourism and the Creative Economy gives new hope that Indonesia may, at long last, gets its house in order by adopting modern methods of tourism promotion.

Pangestu’s past experience and reputation for effectiveness as Minister of Trade bolsters hopes that a new “no nonsense” approach to how Indonesia promotes its tourism products is on the way, sweeping away antiquated concepts and self-imposed limitations that continue to deny the Country its fair share of the growing market of tourism arrivals in the region.

To achieve this, Maria Pangestu will first need to clear away the smokescreen of past ineptitude that insisted “positive thinking” was all that was really needed in promoting national tourism and that the issuance of repeated and inane proclamations that Indonesia magically enjoyed immunity from every inimical global political and economic development somehow represented a wise response to every crisis.

Not only wrong minded, this approach has also proven destructive to national development; blind to the evidence that, within the competitive circle of all ASEAN tourism arrivals, Indonesia’s market share is among the worst performing.

Surrounded by competing tourism destinations with well-financed and professionally-managed tourism promotion boards, Indonesia’s tourism promotion remains underfunded, poorly managed and burdened by antiquated rules and procedures that condemn the Country to less-than-its-fair-share of the tourism pie. Tourism officials are well aware of the many failings of how tourism is promoted, but wring their hands in despair and blame long-standing rules that prohibit public funding of private sector initiatives and bar  private setor direct participation in how government funds are allocated.

As result, Indonesia is unable to compete for visitors and execute meaningful programs for national tourism promotion.

This sad state of affairs is perhaps no where more evident than the disconnect between a stated desires to grow the meeting, incentive, conference and exhibition (MICE) markets and the lack of a dedicated national conference and convention bureau. While other destinations, such as Singapore, actively court organizers of major international conferences up to 8-10 years in advance of an event and offer financial incentives and subsidies, Indonesia has no comparable agency charged with the solicitation of international conferences and conventions.

Until Indonesia discovers an accommodation that will allows an establishment of an effective and well-funded tourism promotion office that calls on the substantial reservoir of talent and expertise existing within the private sector of Indonesian tourism managers, any efforts to compete effectively for tourism visitors will achieve limited results.

Hopefully, Mari Pangestu’s solid grounding in matters of trade will allow her to examine the sea of “best practice” in tourism promotion that surrounds Indonesia and then create a promotional organization capable of freeing itself from the current quagmire or needless, self-imposed restrictions.