Voyage into wonderful waters: Exploring Indonesia

With diversity, distinction and a sincere approach to hospitality ingrained in its DNA, Indonesia’s tourism sails are full mast and ready for the billowing winds of development. 

Motivated by a crystalline ambition to further augment the tourism marketing and promotional efforts on a national and international scale, the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia has recently initiated the re-launch of its ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ and ‘Pesona Indonesia’ (the Charm of Indonesia) brand campaigns.

With the wheels already in motion, this official country-wide branding is being used across all destinations of Indonesia in parallel with local destination branding. Minister of Tourism, the Republic of Indonesia, Arief Yahya explained: “For instance, Jakarta may use ‘Enjoy Jakarta’, however, it will be followed by ‘Wonderful Indonesia’.”

Providing  a glimpse into why Indonesia is justified in adorning this ‘Wonderful’ moniker, senior vice president, marketing and communication, Swiss-Belhotel International, Linie Cortez-Palacio synopsized the country’s overriding USPs: “The 100,000+ islands, each offering different, diverse and unique experiences, and most importantly, the people who will never fail to extend a warm welcome.”

And so, with diversity, distinction and a sincere approach to hospitality ingrained in its DNA, Indonesia’s tourism sails are full mast and ready for the billowing winds of development.

Addressing the varied efforts that are being undertaken to effectively promote the country, Yahya urged that the use of digital media such as mobile apps, digital campaigns, interactive campaigns and viral marketing (Facebook, Twitter, youtube and blogs) would play an integral role, as would advertising in thematic magazines; road shows; and familiarisation trips – which incorporate a targeted approach to inviting tour operators and travel writers to experience the country.

Referring to the digitally-influenced approach to the country’s tourism strategies, Yahya said: “Digital Marketing has 60 per cent more effectiveness and costs 60 per cent compared to the non-digital marketing. This means it is three times more effective than non-digital marketing.”

Spearhead-driven efforts such as this are being welcomed as decisive steps towards the generation of a wider consciousness concerning Indonesia’s tourism potential, especially within largely untapped markets, as general manager, Bali Dynasty Resort, Robert Kelsall indicated: “The governmental programmes and promotions help to create a greater awareness of the destination as a whole in new and unfamiliar markets.”

With 20 million international tourists by 2019 as an end-goal, it is perhaps unsurprising that Indonesia’s government is pulling out all the stops to turn such ambitions into reality through the roll-out of a number of breakthrough initiatives including the provision of Short Term Visit Free Visa policies for five more countries, namely, Australia, Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia, which will be applied this year. Additionally, there will be a drive to simplify the yachting and cruise ship permit processes for those entering the Indonesian waters.

The ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ re-launch is just one of the ten definitive Quick Win programmes that are being mounted to effectuate a successful tourism agenda. The remaining programmes encompass e-tourism; the formulation of tourism promotion contents; a national culinary week; travel bloggers’ appreciation acknowledgments; Jakarta digital valley (Bale Motekar); the ground-breaking of  Kota Tua Performance House; acknowledgments to creatives who recycle creative products; a digital photo bank; and the Indonesia Film Festival.

Pillars of potential

Delving deeper into Indonesia’s strength of tourism attraction, it seems there are three chief elements that come to the fore, specifically, those which are natural, cultural and manmade. It is the intention of the Ministry of Tourism to develop these three key pillars as national prime tourism products.

According to the Ministry, the country’s natural assets account for 60 per cent of its tourism potential, and will be developed through the niche arenas of marine tourism, ecotourism and adventure tourism. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s cultural assets make up some 35 per cent of the country’s potential. This pillar will be developed through its heritage, religious, culinary and shopping experiences. While only coming in at five per cent, the final ‘manmade’ pillar is by no means of less importance. The potential of this asset, which incorporates MICE, sports tourism and integrated products development, holds vast significance and is slated for premium growth.

Climbing confidence

Indeed, Indonesia has already entered 2015 on firm footing, with the country’s National Statistics Board revealing on January 2 this year that the total number of international tourist arrivals from January to November 2014 topped 8.52 million – marking a growth of 7.29 per cent year-on-year compared to the 7.94 million received in the same comparative period in 2013.

Bali provided the most significant stand-out figures having experienced a hefty growth of 14.78 per cent, achieving 3.41 million direct foreign arrivals in the period. With a total target of 2.9 million for 2014, Bali has clearly exceeded expectations and retains its position as the country’s prime tourist destination.

Based on these figures alone, Indonesia as a whole is displaying confidence in that the target of 9.3 million for the full year of 2014 has been achieved and even surpassed. Similarly, the target of 251 million trips by domestic tourists has also outstripped expectations, according to Yahya.

And so, how does this translate in terms of the tourism sector’s overall contributions to the country’s GDP? To summarise, tourism in 2014 contributed $10.69 billion in foreign exchange and employment in the tourism sector stood at 10.3 million, giving a share of 4.01 per cent to the country’s GDP. Resultantly, there is a boldness of spirit in the country reaching its goal of 10 million international arrivals in 2015.

“With such achievements, tourism should rightfully be a primary industry. Our return level is higher compared to those of manufacturing, while in employment, the ratio is 6:4. Generally, it can be said that tourism products are ready and available; we just need to add to facilities. Tourism also needs to be given higher priority since it is more renewable compared to mining, for example. Furthermore, there are no other industries that can absorb a 10 million employment figure except for tourism,” exclaimed Yahya.

Maximising the experience

With infrastructural development evidently holding a priority, it is perhaps no wonder that existing tourism stakeholders are upping their games to retain a competitive advantage in their respective locales.

Bali Dynasty Resort, a fully integrated and family-oriented resort encompassing extensive children’s facilities, six restaurants and five bars, is one such development that has excelled in preening its product. Consequently, in addition to being voted in the top ten family resorts by Holidays for Kids for five consecutive years, having held the number one spot for the last two, the resort last month received the prestigious Tri Hita Karana Emerald Medal Award – an accreditation organised by the Tri Hita Karana Bali Foundation, fully supported by the Bali Government. The award is testament to the resort’s on-going commitment in maintaining the culture of Bali and its devotion to incorporating sustainable environmental principles and practises into its business.

The resort’s general manger, Kelsall, urged that maximising the guest’s experience is at the top of the 2015 agenda: “[Our key focus points for 2015 will be] to offer exceptional value and a high level of service ensuring we maximise the guests’ internal experience and spend within the resort.”

While 90 per cent of its current business is reliant on the leisure segment, Kelsall indicated that with the rise of new properties in Bali expected in 2015 and beyond, efforts will be made to expand the resort’s meetings and incentives capabilities.

The current issue of over-supply is a concern in Bali, as implied by director of sales and marketing, Banyan Tree Ungasan, Francisca Thorogood. However, possessing a unique offering means that confidence is justifiably strong. Thorogood threw the spotlight on just three of the property’s USPs including the spacious one-, two- and three-bedroom villas at 403m² to 596m² to 1,200m² respectively; the private swimming pool of 10x4m for the one-bedroom villas; and the breath-taking ocean vista which is the majority view offered by the villas.

For the year ahead, Thorogood urged that the unique proposition that is Banyan Tree Ungasan will be taking a moderate approach when it comes to raising room rates, while focusing on maintaining its base of geographic markets across Asia, including the local market.

Home from home

In terms of capturing new markets, Thorogood was encouraging in her consideration of the MENA region. “MENA is one of the potential markets for Bali and especially for Indonesia, with a majority of Muslim population. The amount of Muslim tourists, especially from the Middle East, may lag behind those from China or other major Asian countries, but their numbers are growing year-on-year. And more importantly, they stay for longer and spend big. According to data from the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, 89,996 tourists from KSA, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt entered the country during the January-August period, marking an increase of 28.3 per cent from 64,479 in the same period of 2013.”

Hot on the heels of Qatar Airways’ direct service launch in September 2014, Thorogood explained that Banyan Tree Ungasan is poised to expand its visibility with the MENA region. “We are expanding this market by participating more in sales missions with the Indonesian Tourism Dept.; [participating] in ATM Dubai; and expanding our partnerships with travel agents, wholesalers and airlines, both overseas and locally. Muslim service is also available for our guests in each villa (providing prayer mats, Quran, prayer directions, halal food and no alcohol set-up in the villa etc.) Having two Banyan tree properties in Ras Al Khaimah and Al Wadi also increases brand awareness of Banyan Tree Ungasan Bali,” she said.

Indonesia’s advantage as a largely Muslim populated country that understands the needs of regional travellers was also noted by Cortez-Palacio of Swiss-Belhotels, who remarked: “Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in Asia and therefore understands the needs and requirements of the travellers from the Middle East region, and so, there is no need for adjustment. They may be travelling to a different country, experiencing something different, but at the same time, they feel at home. This is what will attract ME visitors. You are away from home, but it still feels like home.”

As experts in creating this home-from-home environment, and driven by a core philosophy of combining passion and professionalism, Swiss-Belhotel’s development portfolio for Indonesia is unmatched, with 20-plus properties inked for opening, according to Cortez-Palacio. “Swiss-Belhotel’s developments are in secondary and tertiary cities, therefore we support Indonesia by providing international accommodation in areas where a few dare visit. But Swiss-Belhotel International manages hotels to ensure visitors have the accommodation of international expectations.”

Marking a milestone in its portfolio development, Swiss-Belhotel International recently opened its inaugural convention and exhibition centre, ska Co Ex, in Pekanbaru Riau.

The company will manage the facility, which houses four ballrooms equipped to host up to 3,000 guests, and five function rooms, which can accommodate up to 200 guests.

The newly opened ska Co Ex is situated in the business district of Pekanbaru, Riau, with convenient access to other business areas and the government district. Adding to this, it is in the same complex as Swiss-Belinn ska Pekanbaru and ska Mall.

Chairman and president, Swiss-Belhotel International, Gavin Faull commented:  “[This] is another milestone in the development of Swiss-Belhotel International as ska Co Ex in Pekanbaru Riau. ska Co Ex promises to be a leading convention centre and it will become the pride of the city. Our management will ensure that there are consistent international standards of all operations and services as we will manage the facility with the professionalism and passion which is the hallmark of Swiss-Belhotel International.”

And so it seems that Indonesia’s principal maestros have taken up the baton and are conducting, with the cooperation of the archipelago’s virtuoso tourism players, a ‘wonderful’ overture to generate a wider consciousness of the country’s inimitable offering.

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