Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Indonesia’s Enormous Tourism Potential

Indonesia is the one of the largest countries in the world and is the one with the most number of islands. It is extremely rich in diversity of culture, heritage, and places of interest.

From the far west of Sabang to the far east in Merauke, the country has a variety of culture that is as vast as the color spectrum in a rainbow. Although the majority of the population is Javanese, there are cultures which are simply very different from those of the Javanese as evident in the dialects, architecture, places of interest, and the social etiquettes, to name a few of the aspects. Certainly those are what tourists usually look for and generally are willing to pay for the unique experiences.

Unfortunately, the international community appears to mostly only know the island of the gods, Bali. Interestingly, there are even some who are aware of Bali but are not quite aware that Bali is actually an island which is part of Indonesia. Hence not surprisingly, the most number of international arrivals in Indonesia are only in both Bali and the capital of the nation itself, Jakarta, far from the optimum.

Despite the vast offerings by Indonesia’s tourism sector which can potentially generate tens of billions of dollars of foreign exchange reserves for the nation, the true potential remains hidden, even to a large segment of the local population.

A fair amount of effort thus needs to be channeled towards raising Indonesia’s brand, profile in the international arena. A step taken by Indonesia’s investment board in their advertising in Bloomberg channel is encouraging. Something similar to that of “Malaysia – truly Asia” campaign by Indonesia is further needed.

Something innovative and on a serious scale similar to efforts undertaken by the Japan Foundation in promoting the Japanese culture, including even some TV series, can be an interesting move forward.

And practically, a lot more information on Indonesia’s places of interests, activities need to be available in Indonesian consulates and embassies situated all around the world, with different themes showcased at different times or seasons, in as much interesting details as possible.

On the ground itself, a bit of efforts to make things more organized for the tourists are also needed. The last thing tourists want to get is for the locals to chaotically approach them. Something organized like simple elephant shows in Thailand can be a good example. Tourists generally are more than glad to give tips anyway as long as they are satisfied.

If something as simple as that can generate foreign exchange for Thailand, it looks like Indonesia can exceed that without too much difficulty. As the numbers speak for themselves, Indonesia actually has more tourist spots than Thailand, hands down. If only they are developed to full potential, such as the coral reefs in the east, an exceptionally beautiful Lake Toba in the west (Sumatra), and various potential eco-tourism spots, there is actually hardly any SE Asian country that stands much of a chance to compare against such a long list of virtually all very exotic, exciting places to visit. And all of these can be achieved. After all, Bali itself a few decades ago was hardly developed, yet it managed to become a premier tourist destination.

As the efforts start to bear fruit, the international perception of Indonesia will shift from some place on earth regularly portrayed negatively to something interesting worth looking at, and visiting, thus bringing great prosperity to the nation as a whole, all the way down to the local citizen level.

No comments: