In the wake of changes to tourist priorities worldwide, Indonesia is looking to transform the focus of its tourism sector from mass tourism to special interest, the country’s Deputy Minister for Tourism Product and Events has announced.
Sustainability is the order of the day, with rafts of eco policies and green investment stimuli set to assist the transition. An additional Rp15 trillion (€913 million) has been committed to developing priority tourism destinations across Sumatra, Central Java and various coastal resorts and islands over the next two years.
Speaking at a tourism industry conference (THINC) in Bali in September 2023, Deputy Minister Rizki Handayani called post-Covid changes in the tourism industry “the new normal” and declared that “the urgency of sustainability in the tourism sector has never been more pronounced.”
Budi Tirtawisata, CEO of Panorama Group, agreed with her and noted that Panorama is already developing a more sustainable and eco-friendly offer. “What’s most important is quality, so there can be many tourists (visiting Indonesia) as long as they are of high quality,” he went on, though he acknowledged the vagueness of the terms, and said “quantity” and “quality” need better definition in government investment guidelines.
International tourist arrivals in Indonesia grew by a colossal 250% in the second quarter of 2023. Arrivals hail in the majority from Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, India, and China.
But with the government chasing 1.4 billion domestic tourists and 6.5 million foreign tourists by the end of the year, questions will inevitably be raised about how to balance driving the economy with looking after destinations.
Indonesia has been one of many countries managing the effects of overtourism, with discussions taking place around tourist taxes in places like Bali and bans on certain tourist activity at sacred sites.
Grappling with the subject, Budi emphasised that the concept of “quality tourism” should not mean closing Indonesia off to tourists. Instead the approach should be to uphold “high-quality standards while accommodating significant numbers,” he said.
But what do those high standards look like in practice?
Bali is sometimes seen as a playground for Australian vacationers, but it has taken some steps towards a greener, more sustainable offer. Electric cars and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power have been implemented by several hotels in the five-star hotel enclave of Nusa Dua.
Rizki promised incentives for investors to adopt such sustainable tourism practices across the country, in addition to the money already set aside for Lake Toba, Borobudur, Labuan Baju, Mandalika, and Likupang.
To fund the targeted changes, the government is seeking investors to the tune of US$2.68 billion (€2.51 billion). China and the Middle East have long had interests in Indonesia. Rizki pointed investors towards “star hotels” as well as the future capital city, Nusantara, on the east coast of Borneo, where construction began in 2022. In a perhaps cautionary tale, Indonesia’s former capital, Jakarta, became the world’s most polluted city in 2023.
“I invite all of you to consider these promising opportunities and join us in crafting a sustainable future for Indonesia’s tourism and creative economy,” Rizki told the conference.