The government is set to promote sports tourism in Indonesia, tapping into the potential of the country’s oceans, thereby expecting to draw more international tourists.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu recently told The Jakarta Post the government was developing the infrastructure for sports tourism, such as yachting.
“Sports are clearly a sector that has huge potential to boost our economy and we have just set up a task force consisting of several ministries and stakeholders to better manage and develop this sector,” Mari said.
She said the task force consists of the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, the Transportation Ministry, state-owned port operator Pelindo, state-run shipping company PT Pelni, oil and gas company PT Pertamina, the Law and Justice Ministry’s Immigration Office, and Finance Ministry’s Custom and Excise Directorate General.
In addition to improving 10 main ports across the country that are prepared to be the centers for cruise ships and marine sports, such as Benoa in Bali and Makassar New Port in South Sulawesi, the task force would help implement
the presidential decree on tax elimination for yachts that visit Indonesia.
“By easing the procedure [for yachts] to obtain clearance and approval to enter Indonesian territory and for tax elimination, we hope to see more yachts coming to Indonesia and events in this particular sport in the future,” she said.
The government’s recent breakthrough event in marine sports tourism was the Sabang International Regatta 2011 in Sabang, Aceh. The regatta was part of an international yacht race from Sept. 13-25 last year running from Phuket, Thailand to Weh Islet in Sabang with a stop in Langkawi, Malaysia.
The ministry and private sector held Deep Indonesia and Extreme Indonesia Exhibitions in March this year aimed at promoting water sports, adventure travel and eco-tourism industries in Indonesia and abroad.
Another breakthrough in sports tourism is the annual Tour De Singkarak cycling event held by the ministry and the West Sumatra administration since 2009, a move that is set to attract more tourists to visit the province, which boasts the beautiful Lake Singkarak.
She said as one of the world’s top diving, surfing and snorkeling heavens, Indonesia had particular uniqueness that could not be found nowhere else.
“Do you know that you can surf in a river in Indonesia? Bono River in Pelalawan regency of Riau province is the most unique place to surf here and maybe the only one in the world,” she said. She said at a certain time, Bono River created waves that were high enough to be paddled into by surfers.
“For the short-term plan, we are going to focus our promotions are on golf because we do not need to build more infrastructure for this sport. We are currently trying to create the best golf tourism packages,” she added.
She said Indonesia had 154 golf courses. Thirty eight of them are located in Jakarta.
The chairman of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies ( ASITA ) Asnawi Bahar said the government move was too late compared to ASEAN countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, which had further developed the sector almost 10 years ago.
Both countries are now even holding the world’s best racing event, Formula One, every year.
“I hope they are willing to spend more funds and work harder to improve sports tourism in Indonesia because our potential is much greater than our neighbors,” he told the Post.
He also said that it would be better if the government could combine sports packages with medical or wellness tourism packages such as general check-ups, skin and beauty, or traditional herbal spa treatment.
“Today Indonesia is home to many modern hospitals with high technology equipment. I do believe combining the two packages will be more interesting,” he said.
— JP/Nurfika Osman