SEOUL (eTN) – The Miss World beauty pageant that is currently happening in Bali, one of Indonesia’s top tourist destinations, has put Indonesia in the spotlight due to calls for the cancellation of the event from individuals and religious groups from various parts of the country. Luckily for eTN, Indonesian Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu is currently in the South Korean capital as the head of the Indonesian delegation for the ongoing World Travel & Tourism Council’s regional summit.
Consequently, eTN took the time to speak to the Indonesian tourism minister, who was also tapped to deliver an Asian perspective during the “Asia–Powering Global Travel and Tourism” session held Tuesday afternoon.
What’s the current state of Indonesia’s travel and tourism?
We continue to be resilient despite the slowdown in global economy. First semester of 2013, we are growing at about 6.5 percent. We are quite optimistic that we can reach 8.6 million tourists this year, maybe more.
How do you expect to achieve this given that Garuda Airlines is not flying to as many destinations as they used to?
We have a lot of low-cost carriers, like, Lion Air, Air Asia. Hopefully, with Garuda buying more aircraft in the next two to three years, we will see more capacity.
It helps that Garuda has been on off the so-called blacklist?
Yes, for three years already.
Perception-wise, it is a huge problem with Indonesia. Travelers are deterred because of bombings and other facets that are not so positive in terms of perception. What is your message to these travelers?
Terrorists bomb[ings] are now a threat everywhere. We recognize this, and we have done a lot to overcome the previous attacks. We haven’t had an attack in recent years, so we are doing our work in terms of improving the security situation. In the World Economic Forum Competitive Index, security front we have improved significantly. We are off the travel-warning list of the United States and Europe, and we already have been upgraded in Australia.
Why are we hearing about this more?
I think it is a perception issue. We are seeing continued growth, so I think people recognize that we have done a lot to improve the security.
What are your markets now?
Still ASEAN, mostly. Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and China is number four.
The US and Europe were major markets of concentration for Indonesia, is this not the case any more?
Just slower growth. If you put Europe together, it is still a large market for us.
The ongoing Miss World beauty pageant has put Indonesia in the limelight. As the country’s tourism minister, how do feel about the issue?
We continue to make sure that Miss World competition can run in Indonesia. At the moment, we are going to focus all the major events in Bali.
There is a conscious effort of not extending it to other parts of Indonesia?
We are trying to make sure that we are sensitive to all the concerns and issues from different groups in Indonesia. We think, from a tourism perspective, we can still accommodate the needs of the Miss World competition. The competition will have a lot positive impact on Indonesia. That’s why we will continue with the show, but will be [held] mainly in Bali.
What is your message to those who are opposed Miss World competition being held in Indonesia?
Every country has its sensitivities. I think anybody doing any event in any country does need to take this into account. We do know that the Miss World organizers have taken into account the sensitivities, and we appreciate it. But, given the current situation and the balance we need to strike and all the different groups that we want to balance, we still think we can have a win-win solution.