Indonesia’s stunning beaches, mountainscapes and jungles are by no means a well-kept secret, but tourism has largely been confined to the established resort island of Bali, or the glittery malls of Jakarta. But now, under the leadership of Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya, the renewed efforts of the Ministry of Tourism are beginning to see strong results with Indonesia outflanking other Southeast Asian destinations in growth.
Yahya has overseen new strategies to increase tourism in established areas and welcome foreign visitors from new target markets and countries, developing infrastructure in outer regions and rebranding dry marketing.
The improvement can be seen with a massive increase in foreign tourists visiting the archipelago this year. Data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) shows 4.2 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia from January to June, a 19.34 percent increase from the same period a year earlier which saw 3.52 million visitors.
Tourist visits in April skyrocketed with a 26.75 percent increase on the same period in 2016. Indonesia welcomed 1.14 million visitors this April, up from 902,000 recorded the year earlier.
Indonesia is outpacing regional players – including tourism giant Thailand – in growth.
Data published by The Business Times found growth in Singapore’s incoming visitors from January to April this year increased only 4.4 percent on the previous year. The slowing in growth contributed to a 2 percent decline in revenue for the local hotel industry in the same period, reaching just SGD$1.06 million (US$766,837).
According to a report from Chinese state news agency Xinhua, foreign arrival figures in Malaysia contracted 0.5 percent so far in 2017 on a year on year basis. The result follows a push into Chinese and Indian markets from the Malaysian tourism authority and a target of 31 million visitors for the year.
Thailand, which has long been a favourite of tourists from around the world, has continued to grow. Data from the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports shows foreign arrivals increased by 2.91 percent in the first four months of the year compared to the same period a year earlier. This translates to 12.02 million visitors from January to April 2017, up from 11.68 million foreign tourists a year earlier.
In Indonesia’s industry, recent data from BPS shows foreign visitors increased 26.66 percent in May this year from the same month a year earlier. This equates to 1.16 million visitors in 2017 compared to 905,000 a year earlier.
Booming growth in Chinese tourism is the highest contributor, making up 13.19 percent of all foreign tourists. Visitors from Singapore made up the second largest group with 9.83 percent, followed by Australian tourists contributing 7.91 percent. Indian visitors made up 4.19 percent of visits.
Tourism Minister Yahya said 40 percent of all foreign tourists in Indonesia visit Bali, while 30 percent head for the capital city of Jakarta, 20 percent visit the Riau Islands and the remaining 10 percent holiday elsewhere in the archipelago.
Bali has long been a favourite, with tourists flocking to the island’s beaches, resorts and inland jungles. Visitors to Jakarta typically come for business or shopping purposes.
Increasing foreign tourism has been significantly assisted by a renewed effort in developing infrastructure in several regions with high tourism potential which have previously been underappreciated.
Support for these regions includes the construction of new railways and roads and developing airports into international facilities to offer better access.
The Ministry of Tourism has also established fresh branding strategies for key locales, including Medan, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Banyuwangi, Raja Ampat, Makassar and Lombok.
The ministry hopes to welcome 20 million foreign visitors to the country by 2019, using the ‘3A’ principle which focuses on attention, accessibility and amenities. This principle reflects the ministry’s efforts to improve three key aspects of the industry, to provide better access and convenience with sufficient facilities and accommodation while also boasting excellent attractions to ensure each visitor enjoys his or her trip to Indonesia.