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Blessed with beautiful nature, a rich history and a diverse culture, Indonesia can make tourism one of the main drivers of the nation’s economy. However, the government still has a lot of homework to do to improve the necessary infrastructure and human resources. Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu talked to The Jakarta Post about her plans to develop this sector. Here are excerpts:
Question: What are your strategies to develop the tourism and creative economy sector?
Answer: We have the 2009 Tourism Law, and the Master Plan for National Tourism Development [Ripparnas] and 2009 presidential instruction No. 6 for creative economy development. We know that we have to connect both of the blueprints.
For Ripparnas itself, we have a detailed plan, over 200 pages, on tourism areas we want to improve. We have identified 200 tourist attractions and 80 national tourism strategic locations, or KSPN, which should be developed by 2025. As a short-term plan, we have picked 16 out of 80 locations as pilot projects on how to manage the tourism sector comprehensively and coordinate with other sectors such as the Public Works Ministry, Transportation Ministry and local governments.
Besides Bali, other locations we included are Lake Toba, Pangandaran, Borobudur, Bromo Tengger, Semeru, Lombok, Rinjani, Flores, Wakatobi, Toraja and Derawan.
The biggest challenge is collaboration with local government. The most extreme case is Lake Toba in North Sumatra because 10 regencies and cities are involved.
In Flores, eight regencies have to team up to develop the island, including Komodo. Improving tourist locations is very difficult if there is no collaboration with locals. This is the real challenge.
Our target is not only to increase the number of tourists visiting our country, but to inspire good quality tourism and make them stay here longer.
Moreover, we need to relate the development of tourist attractions to special interest tourism such as cruise ships, and MICE [meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions].
What about plans for MICE?
Our major constraint in MICE is the venues or the convention buildings; the International Convention Bureau also complains about our venues. Big international events can only be held in Jakarta and Bali. People pick the Jakarta Convention Center first, after that JIExpo in Kemayoran and the last resort is Bali.
As of today, only 10 percent of venues in Indonesia are categorized as large and can accommodate 1,000 to 3,000 people, like the newly launched Trans Convention Center in Bandung and the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center. The rest are small and medium venues that handle less than 1,000 people.
The development of the MICE sector, especially in medium convention centers, is good enough in cities like Palembang, Makassar and Manado. Palembang is quite developed because it held the Southeast Asian Games last year while the convention center in Makassar is usually used for domestic events. Domestic events are very important because people can spend six days for meetings, workshops and training. Manado has a quite large venue but they still need more infrastructure and human resources.
What we do to improve MICE is encourage both the private sector and the government to bid for large-scale international events and we will take participate in Indonesian cultural nights and promote Indonesia through cuisine.
We also need to create standards for venues and invest in people to improve this sector. Bandung Tourism Institute and Bali Tourism Institute have recently opened MICE as one of the schools’ majors.
I think we are relatively competitive compared to Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, but, we need at least five years to see the result of what we are doing today.
What about other special interests like food?
We have recently discussed culinary issues with chef associations and culinary experts, and the conclusion of the discussion is that we have to pick our national iconic dish. So far, we have seen fried rice, rendang, sate, soto, bakmi goreng and luwak coffee as iconic dishes.
I am taking the culinary issue to the Congress of Indonesian Diaspora in Los Angeles this year with a theme of the role of Indonesian restaurants abroad should take to promote Indonesia, or what we call culinary diplomacy. We realize that we need to pick the basic menu and the most important thing is the standard of the recipes because we have to offer Indonesian cuisine that match foreigner’s palates without losing the original character of the cuisine itself.
We cannot work alone to promote Indonesian food because when we want to develop food tourism, we have to develop both fresh and processed ingredients, just like Thailand. We are heading there but of course we need help from the
Agriculture Ministry, the Trade Ministry, the Industry Ministry and the Foreign Ministry to make this happen.
What about the creative industry?
First, we can help through intellectual property rights [HAKI] and regulations on fiscal or non-fiscal incentives. Second, we can provide enough raw material for the creative sector.
Third, is public space: a place for creative people to display or sell their products from the high end, such as theater, to the low-end, where the public can enjoy creative talents for free.
Public space is very important, because it has various functions for both the artists and the public as inspirations.
We are going to revive 25 cultural centers that have existed in Indonesia since 1970s. We want to create integrated cultural parks with stages, rehearsal arena, exhibition rooms, galleries, and art markets.
The next thing that we can offer the artists is capital injection. When young brilliant artists have a good idea, they need a mentor to help them convert this good idea into a commercial idea. We can give them bridging capital and teach them how to make a business plan. We are studying how we can give capital injections to artists at the moment because before we jump to that step, we have to create an ecosystem for entrepreneurship to grow. The ecosystem consists of public space and the protection for their intellectual property rights.