Indonesia's Tourism – a National Tragedy

Indonesian Senior Statesman Makes a Critical Appraisal the Development of National Tourism.

(1/25/2010) Anak Agung Gde Agung is one of Indonesia's most distinguished and well-informed senior statesmen. He is a graduate of Harvard and Leiden universities. He as attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the United States and served as social services minister during the administration of President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The following article is reprinted from The Jakarta Post.

Indonesian Tourism - a National Tragedy

Government officials at all levels claim that Indonesia's tourism is doing well, with each year seeing robust advancements. On the contrary, however, all the data indicate how dismally Indonesia's tourism has done this past decade.

In the last 12 years to 2007, tourist numbers fluctuated between 4 million and 5 million visitors. The average length of stay has declined, from 10 days in 1997 to barely 8.5 days in 2008. Worst yet is how Indonesia compares with neighboring Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, which last year attracted 10 million, 15 million and 22 million visitors respectively.

How can such a huge discrepancy occur? How is it that Indonesia, brimming with such wealth in culture and natural beauty, attracts only a quarter of the tourists that basically barren Malaysia does?

This tragedy seems to have its source in the early 1980s, when Indonesia, strapped for funds, pointed to already world-famous Bali as its tourist cash cow. Since then, little has changed. As a result, Indonesia's tourist attraction has been practically limited to Bali, with devastating consequences. Tourists overflow in quantum leaps to Bali, creating an explosion of infrastructure requirements that visibly erode the natural environment.

The over-concentration of tourists in Bali has not only brought an unmanageable overflow of visitors to the island - often the wrong types who cannot appreciate the unique local culture and natural environment - but has also led to an utter neglect of the other many equally attractive tourist spots throughout the archipelago.

Fabulous sites such as Borobudur, Yogyakarta, Toraja, Bunaken and Ujung Kulon, for instance, have been practically left unheeded. Such complacency has a high price, as can been seen from the destructive erosion that the overcrowding of tourists has brought to Bali's culture and environment, and how it has stagnated Indonesia's other richly diverse tourist destinations.

How bad have these other destinations stagnated? Here are a few horrifying statistics:

Borobudur, that World Cultural Heritage icon, was only able to muster about 85,000 foreign tourists last year, compared to more than 1 million by the more recently discovered Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Toraja these last few years has only attracted an average of about 5,000 overseas tourists a year.

Bunaken averaged only about 10,000 foreign visitors a year for as long as one can remember, versus more than 4 million for the similar Pattaya in Thailand.

Ujung Kulon, with its rare one-horned rhino, can only claim an average of 6,000 combined domestic and foreign tourists a year.

A fast recovery is imperative here and the condition for this is a complete change in mind-set. The first order of the day is for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to declare tourism a national priority and for central and regional authorities as well as the government and the private sector to work hand in hand in this effort. This needs to be followed by a preliminary phase of quick-win activities rejuvenating tourist destinations that have so far languished but need only small improvements to boost them back.

Borobudur, for instance, can be brought back to full splendor by relocating the street vendors who have been encroaching on the temple grounds and harassed visitors from fully enjoying this beautiful temple/monastery. Toraja can also attract far more tourists by repairing its forsaken airfield so that visitors can arrive there within 45 minutes from Makassar and avoid the perilous 10-hour journey through steep mountains.

As for Ujung Kulon, tourist numbers can easily rise to more than a million there within a very short time if regular and safe sea transportation is made available from Jakarta. There are other fabulous places besides those mentioned above currently suffering from lack of attention, such as Mount Bromo, Yogyakarta and Komodo Island, which only need small touches to turn them quickly into major tourist destinations while easing the pressure on overcrowded Bali.

The quick-win phase should be followed by a longer-term buildup of other tourist sites nationwide, which will require more infrastructure investment to put them on the travel map. These sites are currently still relatively unfamiliar places, but have the potential to offer inherently unique attractions and help sustain the long-term development of Indonesia's tourist industry.

Such places include Trowulan and Kota Gede for historical interests, Banda Naira and Raja Ampat for spectacular surfing, and the Baliem Valley and Waikabubak for unparalleled ethnic experiences. There are many other such tourist sites and they can be offered in clusters of similar attractions to make the trip for tourists richer and more diverse.

Both during the quick-win and long-term phases, the tourism recovery effort has to be supported by appropriately directed promotional campaigns with a common national branding. Malaysia has its "Truly Asia", India its "Incredible" claim while Singapore and Thailand have respectively dubbed themselves "Uniquely Singapore" and "Amazing Thailand". Branding is important to position the country concerned at the top of mind of would-be tourists while also filtering the right tourists who can appreciate what that country offers.

Increased arrivals of tourists, who show their appreciation of the local specialties, will make the local people proud of their heritage and motivate them to strengthen it further, which in turn will bring even more like-minded tourists. This will result in an upward spiral of tourists and local people hand in hand strengthening the traditional inheritance of the land.

A successful tourism program can have many priceless benefits for Indonesia, including making it the most diverse tourist destination in the world, providing it with a sustainable and environmentally clean source of revenue larger than any of its current ones, and bringing overall prosperity to the people throughout the archipelago (and not just Bali) through grassroots empowerment and self-sustenance.

These are huge potentials that Indonesia should strive its best to realize, as the rewards for their successes are just too great to forgo.

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Picturing the Past at the Antara Gallery

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is especially true for photojournalists who chronicle historical events through a camera lens.

One place that prominently displays these important photos is the Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara (Antara Gallery of Photojournalism) in Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta.

“Aspiring photojournalists can take pride if their photos are displayed in this great building,” said Budi Chandra, a 30-year-old photographer who freelances for newspapers and magazines. “It’s amazing because one photo can be interpreted in many different ways.”

The Antara Gallery prides itself on being the country’s first and only venue dedicated to photojournalism.

The building itself is rich in history — it was once the headquarters of the government news agency Antara, which was founded on Dec. 13, 1937. The agency played an active role in the country’s formation when journalists used the building as their headquarters to announce Indonesia’s independence to the rest of the world in 1945.

Now, this beautiful, three-story Dutch colonial building is divided into several sections. The photo gallery can be found on the first floor, but this area remains empty when there is no photography exhibition.

Ricky Adrian, a gallery representative, explained that the exhibitions are not limited only to journalism but also cover other types of photography.

He added that the gallery welcomes anyone who wished to hold an event or exhibition at the venue.

The gallery’s latest photo exhibit was “Maling Jemuran,” or Laundry Thief, which went on display from Jan. 9 to 16, organized by Jakarta’s Art Council. The exhibit focused on jemuran , or clothes being hung up to dry.

Next to the photo gallery, there’s a place where photographers can hang out and exchange stories. Ricky, who is a photojournalist himself, said that the Neo Journalism Club area can seat about 40 people. “Photographers can just come and talk about things related to their work — or anything, really,” he said.

Another area of interest at the Antara gallery is the small journalism museum on the second floor. The museum’s collection includes old cameras, typewriters, production and communication equipment and furniture that were all used by Antara’s journalists during the Dutch colonial period. In addition, the museum also has several news photos depicting the Indonesian people’s contribution toward the process of decolonization.

Antara utilizes the building’s third floor as the office for its photography department.

“It’s every photographer’s dream that someday he or she can have an exhibition so people can see and appreciate their work,” Budi said. “And Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara is the best place to do it.”

Budi explained that the highest appreciation any photojournalist can receive is when they can have a positive impact on society through their photos. He added that photojournalists are different from other photographers because they have the obligation to make people aware of important issues through their photos.

“And to get that kind of appreciation, they have to exhibit,” he said.

Ricky said photographers in Indonesia hold the Antara Gallery of Photojournalism in such high regard because of its longstanding dedication, not just to the art of photography, but also because of its historical background as well.

“I can’t name any other place in Jakarta that has the same prestige and quality,” Budi said.

An upcoming gallery event will be a photo exhibition called “China Town” by Singaporean photographer Zhuan Wubin. The exhibition, which will showcase Chinese culture around Southeast Asia, will run from Feb. 5 to 21.

Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara (Antara Gallery of Photojournalism)
Jalan Antara No. 59
Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta
Tel: 021 345 8771

The Mayapada Group and Carlson Hotels Bring Regent Luxury Brand to Indonesia

Carlson Hotels, one of the world’s leading hotel companies, and The Mayapada Group announce their partnership to bring luxury brand Regent to Indonesia. They broke ground on the new property today.

Scheduled to open in 2011, The Regent Bali will introduce contemporary style, luxury accommodations and personalised service to one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations - the island of Bali.

The Regent Bali ground-breaking comes shortly after Carlson Hotels announced that it will open a Regent property in Gurgaon, India.

“Regent is renowned for superior luxury and service. The brand has an iconic historical legacy in Asia, and a strong affinity to the region,” said Mr. Jean-Marc Busato, managing director – Asia Pacific, Carlson Hotels. “Our goal is to establish a Regent presence in every key gateway city and premier resort location in Asia Pacific.”

Surrounded by swaying palms, white sand beaches and inviting turquoise waters, The Regent Bali will provide all the key elements of a premium international beachfront hotel. Located on Sanur Beach, one of the most exclusive areas in Bali, guests are promised a refreshing and rich hotel experience from the moment they set foot into this luxury property.

Garuda to Issue Visas in the Air

National flag-carrier airline Garuda Indonesia start will to offer visas on arrival (VoA) on flights on February 1st.

The program entitled “Immigration on Board" was tested on the GA881 flight from Tokyo to Denpasar on January 21.

“This is the world first visa service in the air,” said Emirsyah Satar, Managing Director of Garuda Indonesia.

Present on the flight were the caretaker Immigration Director General Muhammad Indra and the Indonesian Ambassador for Japan Jusuf Anwar.

The second trial will be held today.

With this service, tourists or those who wish to travel to Indonesia do not have to process their visas before their departure or upon arriving at the Denpasar or Jakarta airports.

To process this, passengers can buy a visa voucher after they check in at Narita Airport, Tokyo.

“A visa for 10 days visit costs US$ 10 and a visa for 30-60 days visit cost US$ 25," said Muhammad Indra.

Jusuf said he hoped that the new service would increase the number of Japanese tourists which has been in decline for the last two years.

To increase the number of visits from Japan to Indonesia, according to Emirsyah, Garuda is attempting to have direct flights from Tokyo to Jakarta.

All this time, Japanese passengers have had to go to Denpasar first.

“We hope that this year, direct flights from Tokyo to Jakarta can be operated,’ he said.

Foreign tourists to be able to extend visa-on-arrival

Foreign tourists visiting Indonesia can now extend their visas-on-arrival for another 30 days, as of Jan. 26, the Indonesian immigration office announced Monday.

Prior to this, foreign tourists were not allowed to extend their visas-on-arrival. They had to leave the country to get a new visa.

In the new ruling, the immigration office has decided to scrap the seven-day visa-on-arrival. The office will now only issue visas for a 30-day stay at the rate of US$25, extendable for another 30 days.

Amanjiwo to host spiritual meditation programme

The Amanresorts retreat of Amanjiwo, which overlooks the ancient Buddhist sanctuary of Borobudur in Java, Indonesia, is to host a spiritual meditation programme in May 2010.

Led by Khandro Thrinlay Chodon, a meditation teacher and Tibetan Buddhist, guests will be able to immerse themselves in the spirit of Buddhism, to include morning meditation instruction, evening lectures, private healing and counseling. There will also be excursions organised to Borobudur, as well as other sites such as a Theravada Buddhist monastery and a 9th century Mendut Temple.

Amanjiwo will provide guests with the opportunity to explore other areas of Javanese culture, offering trips to ceremonies, local villages and antique shops as well as elephant trekking and art demonstrations.

Accommodation-wise, Amanjiwo offers 34 suites, of which 14 have private pools. There is also a spa offering beauty treatments as well as a large main swimming pool.

The retreat is situated in a large main amphitheatre and faces both the Borobudur sanctuary and the mystical Tidar Hill, believed by some to be the spiritual centre of Java.

Attendees can choose between a three-night or a six-night retreat, taking place between 14 and 20 May. Details:

2010 Official Public Holidays

1 Jan New Year's Day.
14 Feb Chinese New Year.
26 Feb Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet).
16 Mar Nyepi (Hindu New Year).
2 Apr Good Friday.
28 Apr Waisak Day (Buddha's Birthday).
13 May Ascension.
9 Jul Lailat al Miraj (Ascension of the Prophet).
17 Aug Indonesian Independence Day.
11 Sep Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan).
17 Nov Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice).
7 Dec Islamic New Year.
25 Dec - 26 Dec Christmas Day/Boxing Day.

Note:  Muslim and Buddhist holidays are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and so if dates are given above, they are approximations. 

Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa (formerly Rama Candidasa Hotel)

Rama Candidasa
Rama Candidasa Resort and Spa located on the Eastern part of Bali, right on the Candidasa district with private beach front and beach terrace above the sea. Offers tranquillity, ocean breeze and romantic atmosphere for nature lovers. Rama Candidasa Resort and Spa approximately 70 kms or about one and half hour’s drive from the Bali International Airport. Rama Ocean View is set in the tranquil beach of Candidasa.

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Fashion at the Speed of Life: Indonesia's Steven Huang

The Indonesian fashion scene continually proves itself an unstoppable force, simultaneously embracing its famed designers while ushering in burgeoning talent. One hot newcomer is Jakarta’s own Steven Huang, whose cutting-edge creations, unconventional working methods and meticulous attention to detail led those at an event organized by Cosmopolitan magazine at Immigrant in Plaza Indonesia on Wednesday to agree that they were in the presence of one of the next big designers.

“My fashion designs make women look sexy and avant-garde” says the 27-year-old, whose fans and customers agree that his designs — which very rarely use patterns and are born of mere muse and fabric draped on a mannequin — defy convention. And while the process of taking an outfit from its birth on a mannequin to its debut on a night out might seem lengthy, the adroit designer’s dresses are finished in anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days, pleasing even the most relentless customer.

He pinches and stitches fabric here and there to create a sexy silhouettes. There is no fitting after the dresses are finished, yet his designs feel their way across each of the body’s contours precisely. He works extremely fast, combining several fabrics and adding details like bows, frills and strands of silvery chains to complete his creations.

Originally from Riau, this up-and-comer only recently decided to go full-tilt into the fashion industry.


Bali Tourism - An Island's Cash Cow in 2009

Bali by the Numbers: Bali Tourism Estimated to Have Brought 5.48 Million Tourists and Earned US$7.2 Billion in 2009.

During 2009, tourism is estimated to have contributed US$2.7 billion in foreign exchange to Bali's economy, a figure equal to 42% of the total contribution made by the tourism sector to the national economy.

As reported in Bisnis Indonesia, the head of the Bali Tourism Authority, Bagus Kade Subhiksu, said that the total foreign exchange contribution of tourism for Indonesia in 2009 totaled US$6.5 billion. He went on to explain that the 2,259,000 foreign tourists who came to Bali in 2009 spent an average of US$137.90 per person per day over the average 8.75 average-length-of-stay on the island.

Compared to the previous year, foreign exchange revenues generated by Bali's tourism sector declined 4%, despite the record number of visitors. In 2008, an estimated US$2.8 billion in foreign exchange was produced by Bali's foreign visitors. This decrease is linked by officials to a shortening in the average length-of-stay and lower spending levels.

Bali's 4% decline in foreign exchange earnings compares favorably to nation-wide decrease of 11% decrease in foreign exchange earnings from tourism.

Domestic Tourism

In addition to the US$2.7 billion in foreign exchange for Bali tourism in 2009, domestic visitors to Bali were estimated to have spent Rp. 7 trillion (US$744.7 million), while spending an average 4.2 days in Bali and spending Rp. 516,000 per day. An estimated 3.22 million domestic tourists came to Bali in 2009, representing 58.7% of all tourist visitors to the island.

Subhiksu told the press that he hoped the income earned by tourists visitors to Bali and the fees collected for visa-on-arrival will encourage and justify the central government in providing more funds for the development of Bali's infrastructure.

© Bali Discovery Tours. Articles may be quoted and reproduced if attributed to All images and graphics are copyright protected.

Indonesia bid to host meeting on New 7 Wonders

Indonesia announced its intention of hosting an international meeting to select the New7Wonders in 2011, a senior tourism official said.

"We want to be the host country for the meeting on New Seven Wonders selection," Sapta Nirwandar, the tourism and culture ministry's director general, was quoted as saying Saturday by Antara news agency.

Indonesia has an interest in the event as one of the country's tourist destinations, Komodo National Park, was a finalist in the New7Wonders of Nature selection process, he said.

"Indonesia will be promoted through the event," he said.

The ministry also planned to relaunch the "Vote Komodo for New7Wonders of Nature" promotion in various places.

Currently, the Komodo National Park is among the top 28 finalists in the.

"The Komodo rating is fluctuating but it's still high," Sapta said.

Other competitors include the Sundarbans in India and Bangladesh, the Black Forest in Germany, and the Amazon rainforest. The New7Wonders will be officially announced in 2011