Indonesia tourism push: Focus on Jakarta, Bali, Batam, Bintan

Indonesia will focus on Bali and islands near Singapore rather than developing more remote spots in the world’s largest archipelago, as it seeks to double tourist numbers by 2020.

The government’s marketing budget has been increased fourfold to 1 trillion rupiah ($75 million) this year, a sign of President Joko Widodo’s commitment to the industry, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said in a Bloomberg interview on June 23. That money will be spent promoting Bali, Jakarta and the islands of Batam and Bintan close to Singapore, which generate about 90 per cent of the country’s revenue from international tourists, he said.

“We cannot promote every destination in Indonesia as it’s very expensive,” Yahya said in Jakarta. “Our strategy is that tourism development follows infrastructure development.”

Indonesia attracted less than half the international tourists than its smaller neighbours Malaysia and Thailand did last year. As growth in Southeast Asia’s largest economy slows to the weakest in more than five years and the government lags its revenue targets, the president has pledged to double arrivals in his five-year term.

Indonesia this month granted visa-free entrance to citizens of 30 countries including the US, China and Germany.

On Bali, known for its surf, Hindu culture and rice paddy landscapes, the aim is to spread tourism development more widely as it’s concentrated in the south near the main city Denpasar, said Yahya. The government is pushing ahead with plans to build a two-runway international airport at Singaraja in northern Bali and a toll road from Denpasar to Gilimanuk in the west of the island, he said.

Indonesia attracted 9.4 million international tourists last year, compared with Thailand’s 24.8 million and Malaysia’s 27.4 million, government data show. These countries made tourism a leading industry years ago, Yahya said.

“In Indonesia this has just been decided now,” he added.

It’s a sensible approach to spend money on places that are already attracting guests, because many parts of Indonesia lack infrastructure, said Matt Gebbie, a Jakarta-based director at Horwath HTL, a hotel development consultancy.

“You’d have to spend a lot more to create a new destination,” he said. “There’s no point promoting Raja Ampat when no one can get there,” he said, referring to islands in eastern Indonesia renowned for marine life.

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