A lack of infrastructure, including roads linking cities and towns with each other, has prevented the growth of alternative tourist destinations in the country, industry executives say.
Budi Tirtawisata, chief executive of Panorama Group, one of Indonesia’s leading tourism business groups, said 90 percent of local tourists in Indonesia came from Java and they usually traveled to other destinations on the island.
“It’s because the island has connectivity and the infrastructure is ready,” he told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday.
Data from the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry shows there were 234 million trips by 122 million Indonesians in 2010. The government targets 371 million trips in 2025, based on its master plan for economic growth (MP3EI).
A lack of infrastructure and connectivity to tourist attractions elsewhere in the country, other than in Bali, has resulted in more expensive costs for airfare, putting certain destinations out of reach for many Indonesians, Budi said.
These conditions encourage domestic tourists to travel to neighboring countries such as Singapore, where airfare is often cheaper than the cost to travel from Jakarta to cities such as Manado in North Sulawesi or to provinces such as Papua, Budi said.
Jeannie Lim, an executive director at the Singapore Tourism Board, said Indonesians represent the city-state’s largest number of visitors, accounting for 2.6 million of a total 13.2 million tourists who visited Singapore last year.
Budi said the Indonesian government is already on the right track with addressing problems in the tourism industry, specifically by focusing on marketing, working with travel agencies and promoting new travel destinations.
The government has also said it would use leftover funds from last year for infrastructure development this year.
Creating a brand or image for Indonesia to attract tourists will take time, Budi said, but the need to develop infrastructure is more urgent.
“This is the time for us. We have to ride the momentum, not to miss it,” Budi said.
Meanwhile, Marc Steinmeyer, the president director of Tauzia Hotel Management, said Indonesia lacks skilled workers in the hospitality sector to keep up with the expansion of global hotel management companies across the country.
His group operates 18 hotels in Indonesia under brands including Harris Hotels and budget POP! Hotels. Steinmeyer plans to add 75 new hotels in Indonesia by 2014 to tap its full potential.
Lim of the Singapore Tourism Board said similar problems existed in other countries across Southeast Asia, but they have become more pronounced in Indonesia because of the country’s rapid growth.
“This is important because in the future, [the biggest] growth in travel will still be intra-Asia and from the rest of the world to Asia,” she said.
Lim added that Asia-Pacific tourism is expected to grow 4 percent to 6 percent this year, outpacing the growth of 3 percent to 4 percent worldwide.