Taste of Indonesia: Several people from Flores who live in Chicago perform traditional folk songs during the Komodo Night at Crystal Garden, Navy Pier in Chicago on Thursday. The event is part of a program to promote Komodo Island as an alternative tourist destination.In a third round of promotional events, on Thursday evening (Friday in Jakarta) the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Tourism organized the Komodo Night in Chicago, US, campaigning for the Komodo dragon (Varanus Komodoensis) and its habitat in eastern Indonesia as another tourist attraction.
Hosted by the Indonesian Consulate General in Chicago, the event showcased colorful woven fabrics, a photo and video presentation and a performance by Indonesian musicians.
“We are happy that the event is taking place in Chicago. We have to follow this event up with some other promotions and also infrastructure improvements,” Consul General Benny Bahanadewa said during the event at Crystal Garden at Navy Pier, Chicago.
A pre-recorded speech by Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Dino Pati Djalal was screened on television monitors, appreciating and welcoming visitors to the gathering.
The organizers were earlier concerned that the cold breeze around the city during the day would deter people from attending the event. Fortunately, around 200 people showed up. Everyone from aging professors, archeologists, teenagers to young girls came to Crystal Garden for the gathering.
Jeffrey A. Winters, an American expert on Indonesian politics, even brought his 13 students to the event to provide them with early information about the country they plan to visit sometime this year.
Indonesian tourism ambassador Hermawan Kartajaya emphasized the Komodo Night event was not the main purpose. He said the event was part of the Wonderful Indonesia campaign to promote many the many attractions and the breathtaking views of Komodo and Rinca islands in East Nusa Tenggara as a tourist destination.
“The more important thing is the improvement of infrastructure in those areas. Without an integrated effort from related institutions, this event will bear no fruit,” said Hermawan, the founder of marketing school MarkPlus.
The additional rounds of promotional events were apparently triggered by a spat between the New7Wonders foundation and the Indonesian government resulting in the government’s decision to withdraw the Komodo candidacy in the New7Wonders contest. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism later worked with MarkPlus to amplify the Komodo campaign on their own.
“I believe the [popularity of] Komodo does not depend on any foreign institutions,” Hermawan added.
Esthy Reko Astuty, the Ministry’s director for tourism promotion and publication, said the Komodo Night event obviously underlined the commitment of her office to help promote Komodo Island and its surrounding area as an alternative tourism site.
“We have many wonderful attractions. We are committed to promoting many other tourist attractions across the country and to the international community,” she said.
During the event, the Ministry presented “Friends of Komodo” certificates to Andrea Katalin Molnar, an anthropologist with the Northern Illinois University for her extensive research in Flores, and Alan Resetar, whose institution, The Field Museum in Chicago, has pursued extensive research on the Komodo dragon.
Marketing guru Philip Kotler, who is also the special ambassador for Indonesian tourism, praised the Indonesian people for their friendliness. He encouraged fellow Americans to come to Indonesia, a place where US President Barack Obama had lived as a child.
“Once you’re there [in Indonesia], you will be there more than once,” he said, referring to himself, as he regularly visits Indonesia.
House of Representatives member Jefri Riwu Kore applauded the komodo campaign, saying it would help people in his hometown improve their economy given a growing number of tourists.