Domestic tourism players taking part in the 2008 Tourism Mart and Expo (TIME) being held in Makassar expressed disappointment over the event’s failure to attract more foreign buyers.

The organizer of the event, held from Tuesday through Friday at the Celebes Convention Center, has set a sales target of 10 higher than 2006’s mart, also held in Makassar.

Only a small number of buyers attended the event, with many stalls unoccupied and leading domestic sellers to express their disappointment with the event.

The mart, first held in 1994, has this year attracted participants from the airline, hotel, resort, restaurant, travel and spa sectors, as well as cultural and tourism agencies from both provincial and regional levels.

The event organizer claims that in addition to 108 sellers from 16 provinces, 104 buyers from 21 countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, Hungary, India Italy, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, the United States and Vietnam, are taking part in this year’s event.

Meity Robot, chairwoman of the 2008 TIME steering committee, said Wednesday organizers were targeting a 10 percent increase in transactions from the 2006 figure of US$15 million.

The event was also attended by 15 journalists and tourism writers from nine countries.

Most sellers said they were afraid of being unable to meet the sales target, with a very small number of buyers in attendance.

Anita Verhoeven, managing director of Sunda Trails, said she was disappointed with this year’s TIME.

“I am so disappointed to find only a small number of buyers coming to the event,” she said.

“The number is much smaller than in the 2006 TIME. I’m afraid we may fail to meet the target.”

In addition to the lack of buyers, Anita also complained about the supporting facilities and venue that she claimed differed from information given by the organizers.

Gerit B. Polli, sales and marketing manager of Absolutely Leisure from Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, expressed similar sentiments.

“I had an appointment with some 60 buyers and many of them made a deal on the spot,” Gerit said.

“But now I doubt I’ll reach the target. I’ll be lucky if I can seal even half the number of deals as last year.”

First-time seller Andi Tjipto Hardianto, director of the TX travel agency in Central Java, said he had expected more from the event.

“I hope I can promote Central Java’s tourist destinations to as many buyers as possible during this event,” he said.

Sapta Nirwandar, the Culture and Tourism Ministry’s director general of marketing, said he hoped the 2008 TIME would help Indonesia reach its target of 7 million foreign tourists this year. Four million have visited the country as of August.

South Sulawesi Deputy Governor Agus Arifin Nu’mang said he expected the province would benefit by hosting the travel mart, with various tourist attractions in the province easily accessible to buyers.

Agus added the event could boost tourism in eastern Indonesia, already world-class tourism destination.