- Language Tips
Indonesian Tourism Minister Maria Elka Pangestu Zou Hong / China Daily
More and more Chinese tourists are flocking to Bali as their main holiday destination and, as a result, are overlooking other islands in Indonesia. To counter this trend, the head of the country's tourism said her country is "diversifying" its destinations and choices to give Chinese travelers a more varied experience in the world's largest archipelago.
"Most (Chinese) people go to Bali, but they don't necessarily know that Indonesia has more than 17,000 islands. Although it is the most famous one, Bali is just one of many islands worth visiting," Mari Elka Pangestu, the minister of tourism and creative economy, said during a visit to Beijing on Tuesday.
During her less-than-24-hour stay in Beijing, she met with Chinese ministers in charge of trade and foreign diplomacy, and she took time to promote tourism resources to the media before boarding a plane back to Jakarta at midnight.
The tourism industry has been Indonesia's third-biggest generator of revenue. About 470,000 Chinese tourists traveled to Indonesia in 2011, according to the ministry. Last year, there were more than 600,000, and the figure is expected to grow by another 20 percent this year.
But Pangestu thinks the number is still "below its potential", considering that Thailand and Malaysia each attracted more than a million Chinese visitors last year, and China ranked fourth in terms of tourists behind Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.
Her team is now working hard to promote "16 priority destinations" nationwide, such as the Borobudur-Prambanan areas in Central Java, Yogya-Sleman in Yogyakarta and Lake Toba in North Sumatra, which boast the country's cultural ethnic diversity and natural scenery.
"But we are not only looking for quantity. We see quality as important, too," she said.
She added that increasing visitors from China and other countries in Asia can help offset the impact of the eurozone crisis on tourism.
To achieve this, Indonesia is improving its infrastructure, she said.
By the middle of the year, Bali will have a new airport terminal. By next year, there will also be new terminals in Jakarta and a few other cities in Central Java, so that the country can provide more flights between China and Indonesia.
At the moment, its leading carrier, PT Garuda, operates five direct flights from Beijing a week. Both Shanghai and Guangzhou also have daily direct flights to Indonesia.
Pangestu was the first female Chinese Indonesian to be appointed to a cabinet position. She was minister of trade from 2004 to 2011. During a cabinet reshuffle in October 2011, she was appointed to the newly created position of minister of tourism and creative economy. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono believes "there are close connections" between the two.
And she is applying "creative ideas" to tourism, such as promoting the idea of a common visa within ASEAN to make it more convenient for non-ASEAN travelers to visit several countries on one trip.
Noting that the Chinese movie Lost in Thailand, which was shot in Thailand's Chiang Mai, recently grabbed a box office record of 1.2 billion yuan ($193 million) in China, Pangestu said her government has also adopted the "movie and tourism" model in its recent promotional campaign.
The Hollywood movie Eat, Pray, Love, starring Julia Roberts, was shot in Jimbaran and Ubud, Bali, in 2010, and it helped build international recognition of the island. Bali also developed an Eat, Pray, Love tour so that visitors and movie fans could go to the places that impressed them in the film.
These days, Chinese tourists are changing in terms of preferences and behavior, in her view. More and more are looking for specialized tourism, such as golf, diving and food, for example. Her ministry is striving to "cater more to the different types of potential Chinese tourists".
During the upcoming Spring Festival, there will be celebrations in Indonesia that are also worth seeing, she said. Indonesia has already declared the festival a public holiday.
(China Daily 01/26/2013 page6)