The South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE), held at Pragati Maidan from January 29 to 31, saw the attendance of representatives from tourism ministries of various countries around the world, including Malaysia, Thailand, Macau, Oman and others. In an interview with Indonesian Ambassador to India Rizali Wilmar Indrakesuma and Vinsensius Jemadu, Director of the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia, we tried to understand the significance of India in Indonesia’s tourism industry.
In terms of a source for tourism in Indonesia, what potential do you see in India?
Rizali Wilmar Indrakesuma: Enormous. We see India as the next major country who will be visiting Indonesia at a large scale. This has happened already in other countries. There are large numbers of Indian tourists annually coming to places like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and, of course, you know that Indonesia is within the region. The numbers of Indian tourists coming to Indonesia isn’t as many as these other countries. It’s still quite a large number (around 250,000 annually), but the potential is much higher. If you look into the data of other countries — which is more than 500 thousand — I would say Indonesia has potential of being THE destination for Indian tourists.
And the incentive that we would be able to offer, of course, will be the number of destinations. Being the largest country in the region, it’s only a matter of having more Indians know…more Indians interested in Indonesia.
Why do you think Indonesia hasn’t picked up as a destination among Indian tourists?
Wilmar Indrakesuma: It is a mixture of several aspects. Of course, major scale promotion by the government has only been very recent compared to other countries. Before last year you wouldn’t see any ads on Indonesia tourism on TV. And, of course, direct flight – there’s no direct flight to Indonesia. So, this is something we are also working on. We have either Indian airlines start flights to Indonesia, or allow Indonesian airlines start flights between the two countries.
How long will this take?
Wilmar Indrakesuma: This depends entirely not on authority but the airlines (as well). The process started in 2008, but it hasn’t really materialised until now.
So, what’s stopping it?
Wilmar Indrakesuma: There are several technical aspects – availability of aircraft and logistics. You know, this is a business venture, and airlines want to establish flights to countries based on some calculations. Probably this is the process that’s taking much longer than expected. The Ministry of Tourism has been trying to convince the stakeholders in the airline business that India should be the next step in trying to get more tourists or business people to Indonesia and, thereby, we don’t see any reason why the flight should be delayed any further, because it’s going to be profitable.
What are the steps you’re taking to particularly target Indian tourists?
Wilmar Indrakesuma: The direct flight is one. And promotion is definitely key.
Vinsensius Jemadu: Well, India is a huge market and realising this the government recently put India as one of the countries eligible for free visa. India is (also) included in the top 10 of the 16 markets we have. In 2016, we are very optimistic (and are expecting) 350,000 arrivals from India. Overall, we would like to target 12 million this year and 20 million by 2019.
India is one of the focus nations to promote (Indonesian tourism) in. It’s a big challenge to ‘educate’ the industry and travel agencies in India, because so far Indian agents have very limited knowledge about how to sell indonesia. We hope that within six months to one year, the agents have a clear picture of how to sell Indonesia, because this is very important.
Is there any kind of support you’re looking for from the Indian government?
Jemadu: Well, both governments have a very good long-standing relationship. So, the ministry of tourism would like to leverage this by doing some cultural festivals in cooperation with the embassy. I think the embassy has made some regular cultural activities that we are going to support this year.
What kind of revenue are you getting from India currently and what are your expectations for this year?
Jemadu: Indians spend quite a lot of money in Indonesia, especially for shopping and weddings. The national average spending of tourists coming to Indonesia is around $1,200, but for India alone the average is almost $1,000 per visit per person. I think it’s quite huge, compared to say China which is only $750-$800. And linking this spending number with the expected arrivals from India this year (350,000) – that’s big money.
What are the top tourist destinations in Indonesia, Indian tourists should now target?
Jemadu: So far, (most tourists) only know Bali, because it started promotion since 1930. Now, the focus is to go beyond Bali. This year, the ministry is focusing on 10 destinations — Danau Toba in North Sumatra, Komodo in East Nusa Tenggara, Lombok, Yogyakarta, Solo, Semarang, Banyuwangi (which is close to Bali), Borobudur in central Java in Pandanaran, Bunaken in north Sulawesi, Wakatobi and Raja Ampat. And also some places surrounding Jakarta – the Thousand Islands and the Tanjung Lesung.
Which is the one destination every Indian tourist should go to?
Jemadu: For the Indian market, central Java with Borobudur and Prambanan Temple – the biggest Hindu temple – is a destination worth visiting. It’s quite easily accessible because you can enter through Jakarta, or even Bali.