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Jakarta Post

Garuda chief urges govt to focus on tourism recovery instead of '10 new Balis'

  • Mardika Parama

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, August 14, 2020   /   12:44 pm
Garuda chief urges govt to focus on tourism recovery instead of '10 new Balis' A view from Samosir Island of Lake Toba. (Shutterstock/-)

National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia president director Irfan Setiaputra has urged the government to reconsider its plan to develop 10 new tourist destinations and instead focus on tourism recovery amid the current COVID-19 crisis, which continues to batter the sector.

The 10 destinations refer to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s program to develop emerging tourist destinations, including Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur in Central Java, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara and Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara.

The airline suggested that the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry focus its tourism revival effort on a single tourist spot to attract foreign tourists given the slump in visitors in recent months, Irfan stated on Thursday.

“When someone buys a ticket to travel, they will only go to one destination. [Too many destinations] might be distracting,” he said during an online discussion held by the Indonesian National Air Carriers Association (INACA).

“So we [Garuda and the ministry] are currently discussing focusing on one or two destinations so we can bring in domestic and international visitors.”

He added that Bali remained the top destination for airlines during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has battered foreign tourist arrivals to Indonesia amid international border closures and travel restrictions. Foreign visits plummeted 59.96 percent year-on-year to 3.09 million in the first half of the year, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show.

The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry expects a full recovery of foreign tourist arrivals by 2025, while it estimates foreign tourist arrivals to reach between 2.8 million and 4 million visitors this year, well below the government’s initial target of 18 million.

Bali reopened for domestic tourists in late July, and instantly welcomed a rush of around 4,000 passengers via I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport on the reopening days. It is planning to open its borders to international tourists on Sept. 11.

Read also: Tourism stakeholders focus on infrastructure, long-term investment amid slump

Despite his criticism of the government’s tourism development plan, Irfan said he fully supported the President’s plan to establish a state-owned enterprises (SOEs) holding for tourism and the aviation industry, which he said could integrate the effort to attract high-spending tourists to Indonesia.

“The SOEs holding could be effective if we put our focus on the tourism sector. We shouldn’t get into the technicalities, but rather work together with state-owned tourism companies to lure in high-spending tourists,” he said.

Jokowi previously announced on Aug. 6 that he was considering forming a holding company for aviation and tourism SOEs to help integrate companies’ management and consolidate the management of airlines, airports, tourist destination operators and hotels.