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Tourism bill to give players unprecedented access, power  Sep 22, 2008

After more than a year of deliberations, a tourism bill being finalized at the House of Representatives will give unprecedented power to businessmen in the industry if it is passed, tourism executives said.

The bill, which has been debunked by many in the industry as burdensome, has been amended to grant legislative powers to tourism associations, such as the Association for Indonesian Tours & Travel Agencies (ASITA).

The bill will replace a two-decade-old tourism law.

"Back then, if we wanted to market a particular tourist destination in the country, we had to run around and ask public works or the transportation department for approval or confirmation," ASITA president Ben Purwa said.

He said the bill would ease the path for associations like his to influence decision making at high-ranking governmental tourism agencies and related offices.

"Like right now, there's a lack of load capacity in flights from Singapore to Indonesia, I say we just open a new flight route or add load capacity from one of our airliners and with the bill, the government will have to listen," he said.

He said the bill would also allow associations to define a destination's main tourist attraction.

"Like in Bali, which has a strong beach and cultural attraction, other tourism destinations should try to be different, that way Indonesia can profit as a whole," he said.

Critics have said the bill risks overlapping authority between associations and the government, a snag Ben said was the necessary cost of boosting the country's tourism industry.

He said tourism groups were the most knowledgeable on the subject and could significantly contribute to making industry regulations.

"We just want to sit down together and have a say. We shouldn't be letting everyone do their own thing, we should work together so that our industry can focus and flourish," he said.

Ben said ASITA and other related associations would do what they could to ensure the bill was passed before the end of the year.

Perry Markus, secretary general of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Association of Hotels and Restaurants, expressed his support for the amendment to the bill.

He had argued before the amendment that the bill lacked streamlining, citing that hotels were required to undergo government certification and classification tests in addition to those set by the association.

He said he agreed with many of the articles of the new bill.

"In terms of promotion and marketing, I think this bill is quite strong right now. There shouldn't be anymore delays for the House to endorse the bill," he said.

Ngurah Wijaya, head of the Bali Tourism Board, also changed his stance in support of the bill.

"In general, I think the bill is in line with the reform era," he said.

Tourism bill to give players unprecedented access, power

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