What is your favorite destination in Indonesia
Indonesia: The island nation offers an incredible variety of ancient traditions
"Everything we do, we do with the heart!" Consciously underscores the promise made by the Indonesian Minister for Tourism and Creative Industries, Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu the proverbial hospitality and warmth of the heart of the multi-ethnic Southeast Asian partner country of this year's ITB Berlin. The campaigns “Wonderful Indonesia” and “The World’s Heart of Wonders”, which were launched for the world's largest travel trade fair, accompany the country’s appearance like a red thread.
Indonesia is planning a real charm offensive, with which it wants to position itself broadly and as an ecologically sustainable future destination with trade visitors and travel audiences. Dr. Pangestu intends to dispel a possible prejudice: “Indonesia is more than a part of Bali.” On all five days of the fair, 200 traveling artists present twelve different folklore shows around the exhibition hall 26A, where the partner country is located. But the expectant Indonesian delegation also had hard facts in their luggage: the country is working hard to improve the tourist infrastructure. The participation of its President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the opening ceremony documents the importance of Indonesia taking the partnership with ITB Berlin.
What a country! More than 17,500 islands and 13 oceans make up the state of Indonesia, it is the largest archipelago in the world. 6,044 of these islands are inhabited. The total coastline is a good 54,700 kilometers, after Canada it is the longest in the world. A walk on the beach would mean more than a trip around the world. Divers and snorkelers find twelve percent of all coral reefs on earth in Indonesian waters. Almost 240 million people live in the island nation, over half of them on Java. In the ranking of the most populous countries in the world, Indonesia ranks fourth. And it is the largest Muslim country. The unbelievable diversity of centuries-old traditions and cultures is borne out by the following figures: There are over 300 different ethnic groups living in Indonesia who practice numerous religions and speak over 700 languages and dialects. The variety of landscapes offers 90 ecosystems, untouched jungles, endless sandy beaches, species-rich diving areas, impressive volcanic landscapes and pulsating metropolises.
No wonder that tourism, which opens up this wonderland to vacationers from all over the world, has become one of the most important economic factors in the country. 9.2 million people work in this branch of the economy, that is 6.9 percent of the total workforce. This figure shows the dynamism: with over 730 million US dollars, foreign investors tripled their monetary investment in hotel and catering projects in the past year compared to 2011. Domestic investments doubled.
Anything but a niche destination
In the Asian portfolio of German tour operators, Indonesia is much more than a niche destination. At TUI, the Asian island world is one of the top ten long-distance travel destinations all year round. In the summer of travel, the destination even climbed to fifth place on the hit list. The case is similar with Thomas Cook. For Dertour and some of its competitors, Indonesia is even the second most important destination in the Asia / China catalog after Thailand. EastAsia Tours dedicates 48 pages of its 320 page catalog to the Indonesia offer; After Indochina and Thailand, Indonesia is the third most important destination in Asia. This also applies to Explorer long-distance travel. The destination takes up 18 percent of the total offer at Airtours - and the trend is rising. Because the demand grows and grows.
This year, Meier’s Weltreisen is inviting 200 travel agents to Bali in April to attend his most important travel agent seminar of the year, the FarEastLifeSeminar, and is hoping that this will generate another strong crowd. TUI recorded double-digit growth rates in the previous year. The Munich study trip organizer Studiosus was pleased about a 23 percent increase in participants. EastAsia Tours is expecting 15 percent - at a high level - this year. Indonesia specialist Geoplan expects the same whopping plus. Airtours is even hoping for an increase of 30 percent. These are dream rates.
A total of 156,000 Germans traveled to Indonesia last year, which corresponds to an increase of well over ten percent. In 2011, 141,000 German tourists were counted. The Ministry of Tourism expects 165,000 guests from Germany this year. The tourism minister set the bar higher at her first press conference in the run-up to ITB Berlin, targeting “at least 180,000”. Compared to Thailand that is still a little. The neighboring country registered over 680,000 German guests in the previous year. The Word Travel Monitor (WTM), which covers 60 of the most important source markets and thus almost 90 percent of the global travel volume, shows a total of 4.5 million overnight trips for Indonesia in the 2011 travel year. In relation: A good 51 million visitors traveled to Spain's number one travel destination worldwide. China, number one in Asia, was attended by around 25 million guests. By contrast, the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Industries reported over eight million arrivals for 2012.
A quarter of business travel
According to WTM, three quarters of trips to Indonesia are vacation trips and a quarter are business trips. The tourism minister speaks of 30 percent business trips. She wants to increase the government investment volume in this segment, which for her is a guarantee for quality tourism, by a quarter. The customer base of the Indonesian island world is colorfully thrown together. According to WTM, the main source market is Australia with almost 700,000 travelers. Two and a half million visitors to Indonesia come from Asia, of which 500,000 each from China and Malaysia and 400,000 each from Japan and Singapore. Europe as a market as a whole follows right behind in terms of guest numbers.
Most of the trips from the old continent are made by the sun-hungry Dutch, namely 170,000 in 2011. After France, Germany ranks third among the European source markets. The minister is encouraged by the steady growth in the most important source markets. Since October 2011 she has held the position in the newly established Ministry of Tourism and Creative Industries. Their mission: to strategically and comprehensively develop the tourist infrastructure of their large country. The politician, who was previously successful as Minister of Commerce for seven years, focuses on quality and ecological sustainability.
Value for Money
The acceptance by the guests looks good. Dr. Pangestu insists that Indonesia's tourist offers are “value for money”, the ratio of performance and price gives the country a very good ranking in an international comparison. The island kingdom is not a cheap country. On average, travelers from all over the world spend 1,658 euros on their 7.7 day trip to Indonesia. The tourism minister pays a big compliment to the quality and environmentally conscious Germans: “For us they are of great quality.” Because the statistics reveal: “They stay twice as long as the average and spend three times as much”.
With their ingenious arrangements, German organizers and specialists are contributing to the ongoing boom. A few examples: Premium tour operator Windrose - whose first travel destination was Indonesia exactly 40 years ago in the year it was founded - has added the destination and its anniversary trip to the “Deluxe 2013” and “Individual 2013” catalogs. TUI is placing more emphasis on the experience - e.g. on the newly created privately guided tour "In the Heart of Java" to the famous temples of Borobudur and Prambanan with traditional Hindu Ramayana demonstrations. A bicycle tour through rice terraces and typical Balinese villages was built into the round trip “Bali up close”. ITS and Jahn Reisen have expanded the tour program on the island of Bali, which is popular with tourists, e.g. with the trips "Impressions Bali", "Java Classic", "Inside Bali" and "Nature experiences Bali". Each of the round trips can also be booked as a private round trip.
Study trips keep up
The providers of study trips keep up. The 2013 Gebeco Countries Experience Southeast Asia catalog contains four new adventure tours and a newly designed hiking and cycling adventure tour. For the first time in the Marco Polo portfolio is a mini-group trip that connects Bali and the islands of Komodo and Flores. Studiosus is sending three study trips into the race, which always include encounters with locals. "Indonesia - the comprehensive trip" is aimed at first-time visitors who get to know the four islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi with a detailed tour program on the 20-day round trip. The 15-day second study trip focuses on the highlights of the two islands of Java and Bali, and in the third “Southeast Asia” study trip, the specialist combines Indonesia with Malaysia and Brunei.
Six out of ten Germans visit Bali
Apropos Flores: The small Sunda island east of Bali with its cultural mix in the smallest of spaces is often passed on as their “favorite private destination” by the product managers responsible for Indonesia. It is not yet as crowded as other islands, and there is now an acceptable selection of small, fine accommodations available - reason enough for Geoplan to add a five-day cruise to and from Flores and a six-day tour of the island to their program.
The focus of German organizers is still on Bali. Almost 60 percent of all German travelers to Indonesia fly to the island, which from the customer's point of view is practically a synonym for Indonesia. The unanimous credo is the volcanic landscape and the spirituality that make Bali so attractive. So many new hotel projects have emerged in recent years that tour operators are unanimously calling for an improvement in the infrastructure: new roads and waste incineration and recycling facilities are needed. Not least because the prices for gasoline and alcohol have risen enormously in Bali, which also affects the hotel prices, some tour operators would like to switch to lesser-known islands.
But that's not easy: Various inner-Indonesian airlines are on the EU's black list and are not allowed to be offered by German tour operators. Therefore, their main wish to the Indonesian government is clear: An improvement in the flight situation in the country would stimulate further tourist development. The Minister can present the first good news. The expansion of the airports on Bali and the neighboring island of Lombok, which is planned for the summer of this year, is intended to improve the connection of international direct flights. Garuda Indonesia already has new flight connections from Jakarta, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. According to a statement by the ministry, the national carrier has bought 24 new aircraft, which will start connections with several European and Asian cities from November this year.
Bali is getting reinforcements
The wishes of the organizers seem to fall on fertile ground with the minister. After drawing up a national tourism development plan, Dr. Pangestu the already initiated and future development of the travel destination in orderly, strictly defined paths. On intensive trips through her country, she identified a total of 88 attractive, but so far less visited regions. Her ministry has drawn up a comprehensive development concept for them. In the next three years, until 2016, tourism funding will focus on 16 destinations. In addition to the Menjangan, Nusa Dua and Kintermani regions, which give Bali new incentives, there are Central Java with the Buddhist temple Borobudur (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and East Java, the old town of Jakarta, North Sumatra with Lake Toba, the islands of Flores and Komodo with the giant lizards of the same name, Toraja, Tanjung Puting and the diving destinations of Wakatobi, Derawan and Raja Ampat. Alternatives for repeaters, which make up 45 percent, are important to the minister. "It should be our guests like me," she smiles, "they can discover a new favorite destination for themselves on every trip."
No growth at any price
The government will work to ensure that these goals can be reached more easily in the future by air and sea, the minister promises. The expansion of the range of hotels and restaurants is already in full swing. This is done with state funds and with the help of foreign investors, who are increasingly seeing Indonesia as lucrative. The business woman also wants to get the cruise business going. Ten ports are to be modernized by 2014 and enabled to accommodate large luxury liners. The number of currently 118,000 landing passengers is to be increased to 500,000 by 2016.
The minister is not pushing growth at any price. All measures must be ecologically sustainable, because the country has committed itself to reducing CO² emissions in a national action plan on climate change. "Our guests attach great importance to intact nature and a high-quality holiday experience," says Dr. Pangestu. How true: According to German organizers, guests are increasingly complaining about the hosts' lack of environmental awareness and calling for new waste incineration and recycling systems.
Seven worlds of experience for individual stays
The Minister of Tourism has clear ideas about the inclinations and preferences of visitors to her country and why they travel to Indonesia. In order to enable them to create their own individual holiday experience as much as possible, the tourism promotion clusters the main motifs of their guests in seven thematic worlds of experience. The special interests are culture and heritage, nature and ecotourism, recreational sports - here the minister refers, for example, to the country's over 60 golf courses - boat trips, cuisine and shopping, health - wellbeing and spa as well as meetings, conventions and congresses (MICE). According to their experience and the statistics, Germans usually combine two or three in one stay. Her main interests also represent other Europeans: Beach, culture and nature, wellness and wellbeing, adventure and sport.
Some worlds of experience will be symbolically represented at the Indonesian booth in Hall 26A during ITB Berlin. For health, well-being and spa, the Sari Ayu Spa gives away relaxation with traditional treatments that also use aromatic spices. The massages are free for trade visitors on all days of the fair. The exotic “Culinary Heaven” by Vindex Tengker provides a foretaste of Indonesia's diverse cuisine. The head chef of the 5-star Hotel Dharmawangsa in Jakarta is responsible for the culinary catering.
The minister, who got her first personal impression of the world's largest travel fair last year, promises: “Indonesian Arabica Coffees from Toraja, Aceh and Lampung will awaken exhausted spirits on long fair days.” Dancers will liven up the fair for the cultural flair. The large number of artists who traveled with them provide insights into the different cultures of the ethnic groups with their own languages and dialects. Performances include a ritual dance from Makassar (Pakarena), the Dajak dances from Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, and the fiery Kecak dance from Bali. And the Indonesians are bringing another piece of cultural history with them to Berlin. The centerpiece of their two-story exhibition stand made of wood and glass is a two-masted wooden sailing ship, the so-called Pinisi schooner, made in centuries-old craftsmanship. The transport sailor is now also used for discovery cruises and converted as a diving ship in tourism.
Minister Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu in hand in the tough competition for the favor of the travel industry and the travel public at ITB Berlin: May your compatriots succeed in sparking the spark of hospitality and warmth that makes Indonesia so distinctive. Her message is clear: "The true beauty of Indonesia comes from the hearts of the people."
Sabine Neumann & Horst Schwartz
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