Indonesia courts Russian tourists


With more and more Russians eager to travel abroad, tourists are flocking to unexpected locations like Indonesia. And the Indone­sian government is doing everything it can to capitalize on this growing market of Russian tourists by inviting more of them.

If Turkey is the current hot spot for vacationing Russians – with over 2 millions Russian tourists visiting the country in 2007 – then Indo­nesia, which is further away but far more exotic, might just be the next big tourist destination.

According to Jero Wacik, Indo­nesia’s State Culture and Tourism Minister, who visited Moscow last week to hold a special night of Indonesian Culture, called Russia a “strategic market” for developing Indonesian tourism. Each year, the number of Russian tourists traveling to Indonesia grows by 48 percent.

This is hardly surprising, since it is becoming increasingly more expensive to vacation inside Russia. Hampered by poor infrastructure, too few hotels, and high prices for air travel, vacationers are opting for the more exotic.

As part of its Year of Indonesian Tourism program, the tourism ministry held an evening of Indonesian culture complete with music, food, and raffled tickets on March 19. Colorful, lavish, and intricate, the dances offered a taste of what visitors could get in Bali on a snowy night in Moscow. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, consisting of some 17,000 islands. It is also relatively inexpensive.

“Prices in hotels are relatively low compared to those in Europe,” Wacik said. “For $100 a night you can get an excellent room that will include meals, spas, and other features.” He added that Indonesia was planning to increase spending to try to draw more Russians to the country.

As Russia’s growing middle class discovers new vacationing spots, the tourism culture itself is beginning to change. “Russians have become welcome guests in many countries,” the Russia Today television channel quoted Vladimir Kaganer, head of Tez Tour, as saying. “They spend more and ask less. VIP tourism has also become popular. Russians no longer want to stay in two- or three-star hotels and are ready to pay more.”

Other popular destinations in­clude Thailand and Singapore. But Wacik likes to stress his country’s advantages: “Five days is enough to see Singapore. For Indonesia – even a month won’t be enough.”