The government hopes to boost tourist arrivals in the country by building piers for cruise ships in 25 harbors across the country.
Mari Elka Pangestu, the minister of tourism and creative economy, said Indonesia needs to prepare infrastructure to capture the increasing trend of tourists arriving on cruise liners.
“We want to show that we are serious, especially in terms of infrastructure readiness,” Mari said on Thursday while attending an International Cruise Workshop in Kuta, Bali.
Mari said the government is currently developing the piers in harbors of Benoa (Denpasar), Tanjung Perak (Surabaya), Tanjung Mas (Semarang), Belawan (Medan) and Soekarno-Hatta (Makassar).
The minister said the government will seek to improve terminal areas, access roads and transportation to make things easier for tourists to immediately move on to their destinations once they disembark from the ship.
“We don’t want to have the harbors ready but the terminals and transportation remain messy,” Mari said.
The minister said she expects to see 200 cruise liners with 119,000 visitors stopping in Indonesia this year. She expects to see the number increase to 500,000 tourists in three years.
But the number is still a far cry from the country’s tourist-arrival target, which was 8 million for this year.
Mari said that tourism from cruise ships could lead to greater spending and should not simply be sought in order to boost the tourist-arrival tally.
“You have to bear in mind that 80 percent of the passengers will come back and stay longer,” she said. “And don’t forget that every cruise liner brings along crew members whose numbers may total half of the passengers.”
Transportation Deputy Minister Bambang Susantono said the ministry has allocated Rp 3 trillion ($327 million) to build cruise ship piers in 25 harbors.
The money will be taken from the budget allocated for projects under the economic master plan (MP3EI), a blueprint that includes spending on roads, seaports and airports to boost growth.
Bambang said cruise ship pier development this year will focus on Benoa harbor. The pier is expected to be completed by next April.
Craig Millan, senior vice president of land operations for Royal Caribbean International, said Indonesia can still tap the cruise tourism market because it has so many islands.
“Indonesia has about 17,000 islands,” he said.
Millan said that in Asia, China developed its cruise tourism market about six years ago but that Indonesia can grab tourists during the northern winter.
“During winter, cruise tourism will shift from China and other destinations, and Indonesia can pick it up. Or it can take from that country to enter Australia during the winter. We are ready to cooperate,” he said.
The workshop in Bali was attended by cruise ship operators from various countries. (Jakarta Globe)