Monday, October 28, 2013

Swiss govt commits $9.95 million grant for Indonesian tourism

The Indonesian and Swiss governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Monday on an 8.9 million Swiss franc (US$9.95 million) grant to help develop the archipelago’s tourism.

Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said her ministry planned to spend the grant on creating sustainable tourism that protected the environment and involved local communities in four areas, namely Flores in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Tanjung Puting in Central Kalimantan, Toraja in South Sulawesi and Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi.

“We have chosen the four areas as part of our sustainable tourism program because they are included on our list of strategic national tourism areas,” she told a press conference after the signing.

She said her ministry would study how local people could benefit from tourism while at the same time maintain environmental sustainability.

“For example, a fisherman would use dynamite to catch fish to make a living, thereby damaging the environment,” Mari said.

“So we need to involve him in tourism by employing him as an underwater tour guide [for example] to achieve sustainability.”

She said her ministry would execute capacity building and educational programs, which were included in the MoU, to effectively involve local people in tourism.

“Education is an essential part of tourism. Systematic training for tourism professionals is the industry’s key to success,” said Swiss Federal Councillor and head of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) Johann Schneider-Ammann, who was present at the signing.

Jürg Schneider, the head of economic development cooperation at the Swiss Embassy, said his institution and the Indonesian government had yet to define specific collaboration on development of the 

It is not the first grant the Swiss government has given to Indonesia for development of the latter’s tourism.

In 2009, the Swiss government committed about 5 million Swiss francs to develop tourism in Flores, which is part of Corridor 5 of the government’s Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI).

Corridor 5 focuses on tourism and national food supply.

Following the 2009 grant, Flores generated total revenues of $31.5 million in 2012 solely from tourism, up 48 percent from 2009’s figure, according to the Swiss Federal Department of EAER.

Mari said Indonesia’s tourism continued to do well despite the global economic slowdown.

The archipelago saw 5.64 million tourist arrivals in the first eight months of the year, up 8 percent from the same period last year, according to the ministry. The country aims to book 9 million tourist arrivals by the end of this year, more than a 10 percent increase from the 8.04 million recorded last year. 

“I think it happened because of the rise of the middle-class segment, and an increase of low-cost carriers. Nowadays, we have airplanes with [more] affordable ticket prices,” Mari said.

She also said that in 2012, Indonesia saw 200 percent growth in investment in tourism, most of which was dedicated to development of regions outside Java, thanks to the growth of inbound tourism.

According to Tourism and Creative Ministry data, foreign investment in local tourism increased to $768.3 million in 2012, from $242.2 million in 2011. (Jakarta Post)

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