The anxiety is all the more heightened as a majority of these tourists originate in Europe and are ferried to Bali by Qatar Airways via Doha. According to Indonesian Tourism Development Dy Minister Igde Pitana, a threat looms large whether Qatar Airways will continue to bring tourists to Bali in the coming days. As of now Qatar Airways continues its operations to Bali ferrying tourists from Europe. Although there is a drop in tourist inflows, the impact is not significant as yet.

Pitana was speaking to IPA on the sidelines of the Bali and Beyond Trade Fair (BBTF) at Denpasar, Bali, which concluded over the weekend.

The Qatar travel embargo has occurred at a time when Indonesia has put in place a new strategy for tourism development, which focuses on sustainable tourism aiming at the participation of local people in tourism so that everyone gets benefited by the growth in the industry. The new tourism strategy has three components, such as Great Spirit, Grand Strategy and Business Strategy. Pitana said every single tourist is important for Indonesia as the country’s economy is faced with challenges.

The Indonesian government lays the highest priority on tourism as this sector is expected to grow exponentially to become the single largest foreign exchange earner for the country. The snapping of air and land connectivity by Qatar’s neighbours also had an impact on the participation from Middle East in the business to business component of the trade fair. Out of the 264 buyers registered for the B2B segment, only 196 attended and the absentees were mostly from the Middle East. Still business worth $420 million (IDR 5.6 trillion) was transacted during the fair.

Sustainable tourism has a strong connection to the caring capacity of a destination. So, the Indonesian Tourism Ministry is promoting 10 new priority destinations beyond Bali. The minister clarified that these destinations were not meant to compete with Bali, but to keep Bali sustainable. “We are trying to make Bali as a hub for the Indonesia’s tourism and at the same time developing other destination so the visitors can spread,” said Pitana.

Bali was still at the top of tourism point of interest in the travel expo, although buyers were also showing great interest in destinations beyond Bali, such as Toraja, Flores and Palembang. South Sumatra, a co-host of BBTF 2017, is one of the new destinations being promoted under the strategy. Other destinations in the sustainable tourism development plan include Tanjung Puting, Toraja and Wakatobi.

Palembang, which will host the 2018 Asian Games, has rich tourism assets including an enticing nature, unique culture, and is known for its delicious cuisine. Palembang province is currently witnessing a massive infrastructure upgrade for the Asian Games. The improvements include development of the Musi River Edge Attraction, which is a tour package presenting 29 destinations along the banks of Musi River. The upcoming Asian Games is considered to be a great opportunity for South Sumatra to showcase its tourism potential to the world.

BBTF is a B2B event that aims to advance the tourism industry through business sessions and the direct promotion of best practices in MICE and leisure tourism. Together with exhibitors and buyers from countries around the world, BBTF facilitates pre- scheduled appointments and business sessions for buyers and sellers to negotiate on their long-term leisure and corporate travel needs. Corporations, travel agents, hotel and resort chains, cruise operators, convention planners, venue operators and travel buyers leveraged the two and half days of business to business sessions to enhance their respective brands in the Indonesian and Asia Pacific markets.

The event provided great insights into how Indonesia is systematically promoting its tourism to include the sustainability aspect, which has a huge relevance to a country like India, which despite its huge tourism assets, approaches tourism development in a haphazard manner. (IPA Service)