The Jakarta Post
Recently installed Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno has pledged to focus on reviving the pandemic-stricken tourism industry next year.
The businessman-turned-politician committed, during his live-broadcast inauguration ceremony in Jakarta on Dec. 23, to developing the nation’s five “super-priority” tourist destinations – sometimes called the “five new Balis” – at the behest of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
The five destinations are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur in Central Java, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara and Likupang in North Sulawesi.
“I’ve been given a year for [the President] to see preparations for the five super priority destinations from a 360 degree angle – every single little thing,” said the former deputy governor of Jakarta and vice presidential candidate.
“The president is very detailed. The dances, the best-of-the-best, the costumes, the culture, the talent and services and so on so forth,” said Sandiaga, a Gerinda party politician.
The government hopes to use the destinations, which were unveiled last year, to grow Indonesian tourism, especially after worldwide pandemic travel restrictions and income uncertainty devastated the sector.
Indonesia drastically slashed its foreign tourist arrival target for this year from 18 million travelers to between 2.8 million and 4 million visitors, less than a fourth of the initial target.
Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data shows that foreign tourist arrivals picked up slightly to 158,200 in October, an increase of 4.57 percent from September. However, the figure was still down 88.25 percent from the same month last year.
Sandiaga also mentioned continuing the ministry’s Calendar of Events program and tinkering with “new innovations” in tourism, such as halal tourism and village tourism among other “activities that touch on the people’s economy”.
Such innovations are more oriented towards creating additional revenue streams for local economies than creating an internationally competitive tourism industry as with the five super-priority destinations.
Outgoing tourism minister Wishnutama Kusubandio, in his farewell speech on the same day, emphasized the lingering risks of COVID-19 for Indonesia’s tourism and creative economy sectors, which employ 13 million and 20 million citizens respectively.
Indonesia remains in its first COVID-19 wave. The cumulative number of confirmed cases passed the 500,000 mark in November and reached more than 713,000 on Sunday – the highest of any Southeast Asian countries.
“Everything was difficult to predict,” Wishnutama said. “This will, of course, be an incredible challenge for Bang Sandi going forward.”
Wishnutama, nevertheless, emphasized that “health remains the first priority for this country,” a point echoed by Sandiaga, who said, “We have to solve the health aspect before talking about economic recovery sectors.”
The most highly anticipated instrument of economic recovery next year is the COVID-19 vaccine. President Jokowi expressed his hope on Dec. 18 that the distribution would begin in January, after the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) greenlights the vaccine.