The Jakarta Post
Indonesia is fast becoming one of the most lucrative markets for the cruise tourism industry.
Despite the lack of adequate port infrastructure, the Indonesian cruise industry is moving forward, with the number of passengers showing an upward trend.
According to the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, some 160,000 passengers arrived in Indonesia by cruise in 2013. 'The number is expected to increase to 203,000 by the end of 2014,' the ministry said.
On a similar note, some 309 ports-of-call were made throughout 2013, a 44 percent increase compared to 2012, a number that is expected to go up to 385 by the end of 2014.
The number of foreign tourists coming to Indonesia via cruise also experienced a significant increase, totaling 159,578 in 2013, a 40.2 percent jump from 2012.
These numbers have impressed government representatives.
'These are the best figures that have ever been recorded in our cruise industry's history, and this is the result of continuous efforts by all relevant stakeholders, and local governments and ministries,' the ministry's marketing director general Esthy Reko Astuti said in a statement.
Indonesia has also caught the eye of cruise industry figures, both local and international.
Companies like Princess Cruises, for example, are responding to this growing domestic market by broadening its portfolio of offerings for the region. Its director for Southeast Asia, Farriek Tawfik, has named the country a 'key market' for his company.
With more than 17,000 islands throughout the entire archipelago offering unique attractions for culture, heritage, scenery and cuisine enthusiasts, Indonesia has potential for being the 'Caribbean of the East', according to Tawfik.
Adding to this potential is its year-round warm weather and its calm oceanic surroundings, he said.
An emerging profile of local consumers
'Much of what has been driving companies to set their sights on Indonesia has been a rising new demographic of Indonesian cruisers. More first-timers and young adults, mostly ranging from 18- to 30-year-old travelers, have expressed strong desires to go on cruises,' Tawfik said.
'This is in stark contrast to European and North American cruise-goers, who tend to be older. Indonesian cruisers also typically want shorter and more affordable itineraries and ones closer to home in Southeast Asia,' he added.
According to Princess Cruises, these Indonesian cruise passengers want trips of no more than three to five days for their first cruise.
Another small and growing segment of Indonesian cruisers involves incentive travel for companies. For them, short-haul cruise ships provide a great tool for team bonding and exchanging ideas.
'Indonesians have also expressed demand for bigger ships offering more facilities and entertainment, with more destinations allowing them to experience different food and cultures all in one go,' the company said.
According to Tawfik, the most popular itineraries for Indonesian cruise passengers are Alaska, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
Issues and challenges
While Indonesia is fast becoming an important cruise destination in Asia, there still remain plenty of problems that need to be faced.
Slow development of port facilities in tourism areas has led to a decline in foreign cruise-ship calls, according to experts.
The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry reported earlier that slowdowns were caused by infrastructure bottlenecks preventing cruise liners from entering ports.
'On the other hand, there are also places like Sabang Port in Aceh that can readily accommodate large ships but have no tourist destinations to offer,' the ministry said.
According to Esthy, the Transportation Ministry was working on dredging projects, while port operators were expanding their facilities.
Erlan Abbas, the Transportation Ministry's head of dredging and reclamation, said previously that the ministry was conducting dredging work at 19 ports nationwide, many of which were popular with cruise companies, including Tanjung Emas in Central Java and Palembang in South Sumatra.
'Progress like this is necessary so that the government can achieve its target of welcoming 500,000 cruise ship passengers by 2016,' Erlan noted.
Indonesians who want to get into cruise tourism have a wide range of options at their disposal. Aside from Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Seabourn Cruise Line are also offering a wide range of special itineraries.
According to Yuktravel.com, Royal Caribbean International's Mariner of the Seas ship offers five-day and four-night trips to Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. One of the itineraries starts in Singapore and sails to Port Klang in Malaysia.
'During this journey, you can enjoy sporting facilities such as a rock-climbing wall or even watch ice-skating shows after the check-in process,' the website said.
'After visiting Port Klang, the ship will depart for Phuket in Thailand before eventually returning to Singapore,' it added.
It also notes Costa Cruise's Costa Victoria ship offering a journey lasting for four days and three nights, focusing on Malaysia.
After departing from the Marina Bay area in Singapore, the ship will head towards Malacca in Malaysia, a UNESCO world heritage site with popular attractions such as Famosa Fort, Christ Church and St. John's Fort. The next destination is Penang, with tourist areas such as the botanical gardens and Kek Lok Si Temple.
Princess Cruises itself is set to offer an 11-day Southeast Asia tour with calls at Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Sihanoukville in Cambodia, and Bangkok and Kho Samui in Thailand. (Prasiddha Gustanto)
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