Thursday, June 4, 2015

‘City Branding’ to Boost Tourism in Indonesia

Indonesia is blessed with a rich variety of natural and cultural charms that have for decades bewitched travelers from across the globe, while the archipelago’s open and hospitable people have convinced them to return for subsequent visits.

With such assets, it is no wonder that tourism is a very promising industry in Indonesia. According to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), the number of international tourists visiting the archipelago in 2014 stood at more than nine million people, a year-on-year growth of 7.2 percent.
And President Joko Widodo hopes to attract more, setting a target of at least 20 million international by 2019. Such a significant increase in less than four years may prove to be a demanding task, requiring strong cooperative efforts between the government and players of the tourism industry.

To help achieve this feat, the Indonesia Chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), a non-profit organization that encourages the growth of tourism and travel industry in the Asia Pacific, recently joined hands with national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia and Tanjung Lesung Resort to conduct a seminar on “City Branding” in Jakarta.

 Approximately 300 representatives of the local government and tourism sector from across the country attended the one-day seminar, which aimed to improve the way each city in Indonesia brands itself to international tourists. After a brief press conference, PATA Indonesia chief executive Purnomo Siswoprasetijo spoke to the Peak and discussed the various promises and challenges of tourism in the archipelago.

Q: What does PATA mean with the term ‘City Branding’?

A: It’s a strategy employed by a city to create a strong position in the target market that they’re trying to achieve. It’s just like selling products or services. With a strong brand, a product can easily be very well-known all over the world. With a strong city brand, it would be easier for us to connect them to the international market. The city would also have the confidence to develop their tourism potentials according to the characteristics of the region and its people. And a strong city brand would also help to preserve the cultural and natural assets in that region. Do you aim to create a strong brand for each Indonesian city?

PATA doesn’t do the branding for cities. We just encourage all the stakeholders to sit together and discuss how to design the right brands for their cities, so that the brands would suit the characteristics of the region and the people and sell well in the international market.

Why would each region or city in Indonesia need its own brand? Don’t we already have the ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ tagline for the country?

Indonesia is different from other countries. This country is too big and diverse to be concluded in one single brand. [The tagline] ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ wouldn’t be enough to explain the unique natural beauty and cultural attraction offered by each region in the country.

Is there any city in Indonesia that has successfully branded its tourism potentials?

There are several with very positive brands. For example, Banyuwangi [East Java] ̶̶ “Sunrise Java.” The brand befits its location as the easternmost city in Java. And its mayor has also created a series of activities that suits that brand. Other good examples would be Banda Aceh ̶̶ “World Islamic Tourism” ̶̶ and [Cirebon, West Java's] “Pesona Cirebon” [“Charms of Cirebon”].

Through this event, we hope to instigate a strong enthusiasm from the local governments and stakeholders to join hands and create such meaningful brands for their cities. Are you targeting any specific cities for immediate tourism branding?

At first, we target the cities, which are already accessed by Garuda Indonesia, as they are considered ready to welcome international tourists. But we also target Sabang [Aceh] and Ende [East Nusa Tenggara] as many international tourists have already recognized their natural beauty.

While helping to develop Indonesia’s tourism industry, does PATA also help to control its negative impacts?

Definitely. But we’d need a holistic approach to curb the negative impacts of tourism. We have to work together with local governments, schools, pesantren [Islamic boarding schools] and associations to prevent the spread of alcohol and drugs abuse among young people in that region because of tourism. Nationally, we’re working together with the WWF [World Wide Fund for Nature] to control the environmental damage and pollution caused by tourism.

What is your opinion on the promise of China’s president, Xi Jinping, to encourage 10 million Chinese nationals to visit Indonesia each year?

Well, that’s great news, but we shouldn’t be complacent about it. Instead, we should prepare our destinations for their visits. As we know, Chinese tourists would like to be able to visit as many destinations as possible in each visit. So, we should really prepare our local airlines, airports and other modes of transportation to facilitate them.

Are you optimistic that Indonesia would be able to attract 20 million international tourists by 2019?

Of course. That’s why we have to work hard now. We shouldn’t just stand on the side-lines and watch what Jokowi would do [to achieve his own target]. We’ve voted for him, so now we have to back him up.

What are PATA’s next projects in Indonesia?

We are supporting the government of Pekanbaru [Riau] in organizing the upcoming Muara Takus Festival on Vesak Day [on Tuesday]. The festival would highlight local culture and become an interesting event for international tourists. On June 14, we’ll present a fun bike for local and international tourists in Cirebon, in which we’d visit heritage and cultural attractions in the city. The participants would be encouraged to take pictures of the attractions and upload them to their social media [accounts]. The pictures would help promote Cirebon to the international market. And we’re also organizing the next PATA Travel Mart in Indonesia. (The Peak/Jakarta Globe)

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