LOMBOK (eTN) – TIME Pasar Wisata is Indonesia’s largest international incoming travel show with some 120 buyers from 22 countries and over 100 sellers from 15 Indonesian provinces. And over the years, it has turned into the best place to get the pulse of Indonesia’s tourism industry. The 2010 edition, which takes place in Lombok until October 16, confirmed that Indonesia’s tourism is surfing on a wave of success. According to Sapta Nirwanda, director general of marketing at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Indonesia is likely to pass the seven million mark this year.
“We are very pleased with tourism achievement for this year. Despite the fact that some long-haul markets remain weak, we achieve[d] growth in all of our major incoming markets until August 2010. We welcome[d] so far over 4.6 million international visitors, a number up by almost 12.2 percent,” he explained during the TIME press conference.
Mr. Nirwanda sounded particularly pleased with the growth in markets such as Australia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and China, all which grew since the beginning of the year by over 20 percent. While Australia is 2010’s fastest-growing market to date (up by 39.15 percent), Japan remains the only noticeable exception with arrivals down by 11.8 percent since January. Perspectives look better, however, in the near future due to the strength of the Yen and Japan’s mild economic recovery.
With some 500,000 arrivals, European incoming markets – still affected by the recession – showed its resilience, however, during the first 8 months of the year, representing 12 percent of all arrivals. Growth from January to August ranged from 7 percent to 10 percent for most European countries except for France (up by 2.6 percent). US arrivals are also up by 8.1 percent despite the absence of non-stop flights to Indonesia. The US market is likely to grow more dynamic once Garuda starts flying back to the USA, most probably in 2012.
Paying tribute to the importance of tourism for Indonesia’s prosperity, the government has increased its funds for the promotion of tourism this year. “Our budget was significantly boosted this year as we have a total envelop of US$17 million just for promotion,” added Mr. Nirwanda. The ministry hopes that its budget will reach US$20 million in 2011.
Bali still remains the major engine of Indonesia’s tourism growth, representing 36 percent of all arrivals. Meanwhile, Bali started to feel the pinch of its rapid growth. Finding an accommodation, especially during the high season, turned increasingly difficult with rocketing prices not only for hotels but also for services. Many tour operators and travel companies complained about increasing congestion on Bali roads with incessant traffic jams. Congestion in Bali might then explain why the island’s tourism performance from January to August of this year remained under Jakarta’s growth. While Jakarta’s total arrivals grew by almost 18 percent during the period, Bali’s arrivals grew by “only” 8.5 percent.
Meanwhile, Bali’s congestion has a positive outcome. It will force tourism authorities to accelerate the promotion of other destinations to take away some of the pressure on the “island of the Gods.” Lombok has probably more chances than other destinations to benefit from Bali’s capacity limits, due to its proximity. Lombok is currently experiencing growth of over 25 percent in total international arrivals and is likely to see more than 300,000 foreign travelers in 2010 according to Lalu Gita Ariadi, head of Lombok Sumbawa Provincial Office of Tourism.
Indonesia’s successful growth of tourism over the last 3 years should not hide the problems faced by the destination. The visa issue still remains a point to be solved with some destinations suffering from the new regulation of delivering a one-month, single-entry visa to countries eligible for the visa on arrivals. “We recognize that Indonesian destinations in border areas, such as Batam or Bintan Islands near Singapore, are disadvantaged. We are discussing with immigration authorities to see if we could not introduce a kind of ‘vignette’ system allowing multiple entry to travelers residing in specific designated areas. We hope to come to an agreement despite the fact that numerous administrative hurdles remain,” told Sapta Nirwanda.
Another area of concern remains West Sumatra, which suffered last year from a terrible earthquake in Padang capital city. Arrivals from January to November at Padang international airport reached only 16,553, down by 59 percent over the same period of 2009. “Confidence into the destination has been severely battered as travelers fear to be exposed to another natural catastrophe,” acknowledged Mr. Nirwanda. “We will step up our promotional efforts to revitalize the destination. We will especially step up the promotion to international markets of the Tour of Sinkarang, a biking race through West Sumatra. We will, in fact, look for the expertise of the organizers of Tour de France and will receive a French delegation by the end of October,” he added.