Indonesia must still work hard to attract seven million tourists

travel indonesiaIndonesia which in January addressed an invitation to people around the world by proclaiming 2008 as “Visit-Indonesia Year” still has to work hard to achieve its target of attracting seven million foreign tourists this year.

On several occasions, Culture and Tourism Minister Jedro Wacik expressed his optimism that the target of seven million of foreign tourist arrivals would be achieved. Yet, on Monday, he spoke in a `pessimistic tone` when he said Indonesia hoped to be visited by about 6.3 to 6.4 million foreign tourists by the end of the year.

The minister mentioned the 6.3-64 million figures based on his estimate that until the second half of 2008, only 3.1 million foreign tourists had arrived in the country.

“I estimate that there were about 3.1 million foreign tourist arrivals in the first semester of 2008. Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) data showed an increase in foreign tourist arrivals by 14 percent per month. So, it is expected that foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia will reach 6.3-64 million at the end of the year,” the minister said here on Monday.

The figures mentioned by the minister is lower than the target of seven million.

BPS said earlier that the number of foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia in May 2008 stood at 509,000, or an increase by about 10.85 percent compared with a month earlier when the figure was 459.130

Thus, Indonesia needs to make extra efforts to promote its tourism in order to achieve its target. The minister, however, believed that with hard work, the target could be achieved.

Speaking at the opening of a “Sumatra International Travel Fair” (SITF) and congress of the South East Tour Guide Association (SEATGA) in West Sumatra recently the minister expressed optimism that the target of the Visit Indonesia Year (VIY ) 2008 program to attract seven million foreign tourists will be achieved.

“In January, February, March and April this year, the number of foreign tourists increased by an average of 15 percent compared with the figures in the same months last year,” he said.

He said he was optimistic as the number of tourist arrivals in the January-March period this year represented an increase of 15 percent from the figure on the same period last year.

If the 15-percent increase also happened for every remaining month in 2008, the number of tourist arrivals for the whole year would be 6.5 million.

“The balance of 400,000 tourist arrivals is expected to be covered by the many conventions, that have already taken place, are still underway or will be held in Indonesia,” he said.

“Therefore, we all have to be optimistic the target of seven million tourist arrivals will be reached so that we will not have hoped and worked in vain,” he said.

Besides, the current conditions in the country remain conducive for visitors, despite rallies here and there. The number of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia was not affected by the widespread demonstrations against the fuel oil price hikes nor by the increasing political temperature ahead of the 2009 general elections.

“Foreigners are now even saying Indonesia is an interesting country,” the minister said.

The current situation must be maintained so that conditions in Indonesia remained conducive for the Visit Indonesia Year 2008. After all, the terrorism issue which disturbed the country in the past several years has also died out.

Owing to the relatively stable security conditions in Indonesia, the United States has lifted its travel warning on Indonesia.

Presidential Spokesman Dino Pati Djalal said that the lifting of a US travel warning on Indonesia is expected to help increase the number of US tourist arrivals in the country in 2008.

“The lifting of the travel warning recently is something we have been awaiting for a long time,” Dino Pati Djalal said in response to the lifting of the US travel warning that had been in force since 2000.

He said before the US government officially revoked the travel warning, its embassy in Jakarta had notified the Indonesian government on Washington`s plan to lift it.

A number of US prominent figures had visited Indonesia such as Bill Gates and director of computer processor Intel Corporation Craig R Barret.

At the end of 2007 in Bali, Indonesia also successfully hosted the UN Convention on Climate Change which was attended by a number of heads of state and prominent figures from various parts of the world.

“The whole world now knows that Indonesia is secure. As for the threat of terrorist activity, it can happen anywhere,” Djalal said.

According to H. Sarbini, chairman of the Tourist Friendship Forum (Fosipa), the United States` decision to lift its travel warning to its citizens to visit Indonesia, provides a big opportunity for tourism authorities in the country to resume luring American and European tourists to come to Indonesia.

“The United States is a symbol of the world`s community. Thus, if Americans are now free to go to Indonesia, Europeans will automatically be encouraged to follow suit. The lifting of the travel warning will also provide an opportunity and will psychologically restore the confidence of Indonesian tourism authorities,” he said.

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