The Jakarta Post
Tourism experts are lamenting the fact that neither candidate contesting the July 9 presidential election has aired his views on developing the tourist sector, amid the industry's huge contribution to state revenue.
Both candidate pairs, Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa and Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo-Jusuf Kalla, have yet to utter a word on their tourist development plans, despite having completed the second of five pre-election presidential debates.
Observer Bagus Sudibya said tourism stakeholders in Bali wanted to hear the candidates' plans on the issue as the industry had always been a reliable, sustainable source for the government to increase its foreign exchange.
'Maybe they haven't focused too much on this, but they have plans. However, considering the huge contribution of this industry, it should have been listed in their visions and missions in the first place,' Bagus said on Monday.
According to Bagus, foreign tourists contribute around US$100 billion per annum, while the turnover from domestic tourism reaches $200 billion.
'This is a huge portion of the state budget, which reached around Rp 1.6 quadrillion [$135.4 billion] in 2013,' he said.
Bagus said Indonesia was a leading country in the region in the sector. In relation to the commencement of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by December next year, he said the government must maintain huge promotional funds, develop infrastructure and revamp tourist destination management to compete with other countries. Therefore, he said the candidates should have told tourism stakeholders of their plans.
Besides the aforementioned issues, Bagus added many aspects of the country were not ready for the AEC, including human resources and airline regulations.
Bagus said international civil aviation organizations had recorded a drop in the rank of Indonesian carriers, which were more expensive than other countries in ASEAN. According to him, this was due to inefficiency in management and skyrocketing maintenance costs.
'If this goes on, our airlines will be crushed by foreign airlines,' he said.
Bagus suggested the candidates deliver their views on tourism issues when campaigning in Bali.
'We would really love to know their views on cultural tourism, for instance, or village-based tourism and to use the industry as a tool to distribute welfare.'
'The oil and gas business is over. We're also facing deforestation and many other problems. Tourism is our only reliable source [of income] now,' he said. 'Around 200 million people are contributing $200 billion from this sector. Why isn't anyone saying a word about it?'
Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI) Bali chapter chairman, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, said the candidates mentioned the creative economy in the second debate on Sunday evening.
'The creative economy covers tourism. They mentioned this last night, although not explicitly,' he said.
Sukawati, who is known as Cok Ace, hoped that whoever won the election would not ignore the sector. 'I wouldn't say any of them [had no plan]. Maybe they didn't have the time to elaborate [during the debate].'
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