Tour of beauty
Bruce Emond, The Jakarta Post - WEEKENDER | Tue, 03/24/2009 5:40 PM |
They came, they saw, they shopped and they took in the sights: A contingent from Miss Tourism Indonesia made a whistlestop tour of several prime travel destinations in late February, and learned more about their country along the way.
Albertina Fransisca Mailoa wears the country’s name proudly on her sleeve as Putri Pariwisata Indonesia (PPI) 2008, the local version of the Miss Tourism contest. The young woman, known as Chika, frequently travels to the regions for official openings and events, but they tend to be brief visits where she only catches a glimpse of her surroundings.
So the Fam (familiarization) Trip, organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for Chika and six other winners in the contest, was a welcome opportunity for them to learn more about the land they represent and the tourism attractions it has to offer.
“It’s kind of like learning by doing,” said Chika, who finished in the top 15 in the Miss Tourism International contest in Kuala Lumpur, where she was chosen the Most Photogenic and Most Youthful.
The group, accompanied by several media representatives, including The Jakarta Post, visited West Nusa Tenggara, with the highlight a trip to the Gili Islands; Padang, West Sumatra, and, finally, Batam. It was a relatively short five-day trip, but the young women said they learned a lot from their time on the road, including hearing directly from tourism officials about their plans for development.
“This was the first time for us to come together and travel since we were in quarantine during the contest,” said second runner-up Secilea, known as Lea, who was a particular favorite of the journalists.
It was a homecoming for her when she returned to Padang, where she was born and lived until moving to Jakarta as a young girl. She was particularly impressed by the resort island of Sikuai, lying a few kilometers off the West Sumatra coast.
“Sikuai is so beautiful, it’s like having your own private beach,” said Lea. “So natural and the surroundings are stunning, with the white sands with the forest and mountains nearby. We went canoeing, snorkelling and on the banana boat. If I have the chance, I want to go back.”
The young women listened to the explanations of the tour guides in each area, and asked questions about their destination. Although they represented a cross-section of the country – North Sulawesi, North Sumatra, Central Java and Nusa Tenggara – most live now in Jakarta.
Agustini Rahayu, the assistant deputy director for Fam Trips at the ministry, explained the itinerary was chosen to familiarize the young women with areas that, for many Indonesians, remain off the beaten path, and also introduce them and their role to the local officials.
“Those three destinations are among the most beautiful and highly visited destinations in Indonesia, but we also believe that most of the tourism ambassadors don’t know much about them,” said Ayu. “I mean, if we take them to Bali or Yogyakarta, most of them have already visited those destinations and they are ready to tell the world about them.”
She noted the tour was in keeping with the Fam trip tagline – Visit, Explore and Share – as the young women got to experience for themselves the regions, from visiting the Nurmada temple in Mataram, sitting down for a genuine Padang spread in the sweltering West Sumatra capital and finding out the cultural side of glittering Batam.
She was pleased with the success of the trip, noting it received coverage in many local publications. Most important was the knowledge imparted to the young ambassadors as they represent Indonesian tourism both here and abroad.
“The Ministry of Culture and Tourism takes part in more than 60 international events abroad, and for them we usually invite someone who can add some beauty to our booth as a spokesperson. We now have the PPI to help us,” Ayu said.