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Indonesia Ministry’s reshuffle accompanies tourism growth

Luc Citrinot, eTN  Oct 16, 2011

BANDAR LAMPUNG, Indonesia (eTN) - With Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik, Director General for Marketing Sapta Nirwandar is a well-known figure for all tourism professionals dealing with the destination Indonesia. While Mr. Wacik's smile and relaxed sense of welcoming can be experienced in the world’s biggest travel events – from ITB to the ASEAN Travel Forum or to Presidential Summits - Mr. Nirwandar is relentlessly on the move to promote his country and discuss with professionals the potentials, strengths, and also weaknesses of the destination. For travel professionals, he stands as a rather accessible personality to talk to.

It was a surprise then that he only made a short appearance during the TIME Pasar Wisata travel show on October 12 in Bandar Lampung, its home city. The secret to his absence? On Thursday, Mr. Sapta was at the Presidential Palace to learn that he has been appointed by the President Deputy Minister for Tourism. A gesture which rewards his support to the tourism sector during all these recent years.

The nomination was greeted with a mixed feeling by Indonesian travel professionals. “We hope that he will still be present and very supportive to our industry. Ministers tend to spend more time seat[ed] behind their desk[s] in Jakarta,” told an Indonesian travel journalist, echoed by many tour operators.

Only the future will prove if they are right or wrong. It is true that the team Wacik-Nirwandar has been performing well for the tourism industry over the last few years. From 2009 to 2010, foreign tourist figures have grown from 6.323 million to 7.002 million arrivals, up by 10.7 percent. In 2011, despite economic uncertainties in many countries around the world and terrible catastrophes such as Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, Indonesia is on the verge of achieving a new record. From January to August, total foreign arrivals reached 5.585 million, up by 7.2 percent over the same period of 2010. “Total arrivals should be over the 7 million mark,” told Mr. Nirwandar in Bandar Lampung, “I cannot exactly provide a figure for now, but we should reach 7.4 to 7.7 million international travelers."

Although Bali remains the performing star in Indonesian tourism – growing by a stunning 17.4 percent between January and August - policy to attract tourists to other destinations pays off. Thanks to the multiplication of international flights, direct foreign arrivals to Bandung are up by 24.6 percent, to Medan by 14.1 percent, and to East Java (Surabaya) by 8.5 percent. Very positive is also the renewed growth in Batam, the nearby island to Singapore, up by 13.5 percent from January to August, as well as at Padang International Airport, with arrivals up by 20.6 percent. West Sumatra seems finally to see the light at the end of the tunnel, 2 years after a devastating earthquake.

Mr. Nirwandar indicated that he hopes to get approval for a new budget of 8 billion Indonesian Rupiah (US$89 million). “This is our wish for the entire Ministry including administration,” he explained. With his new position, he might be better heard at the government and in the parliament. Over the last years, the budget for tourism has already been multiplied by 3.

Indonesia Ministry’s reshuffle accompanies tourism growth
Sapta Norwandar / Photo by Luc Citrinot

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