TIME Pasar Wisata, Indonesia’s tourist show hosted from October 15 to 17 in Makassar (South Sulawesi), has experienced a turbulent destiny, reflecting in large ways the problems faced by Indonesia tourism. Born 14 years ago as a major showcase for the travel industry in the country, the event had to withstand all possible kind of crises, from political and financial turmoil in the last years of the Suharto regime (1997-98) to terrorism violence, SARS and natural disasters in the first half of the 2000’s.
All these events left their toll on the show despite the strong bounce back in tourism experienced by Indonesia since 2006. From almost 300 buyers and 150 selling companies during its first years in activity, TIME attracts this year 104 buyers from 21 countries and 101 sellers from all Indonesia. And at least, it did not take also its toll on the organizers’ optimism.
“We redefined ourselves, as we want to be a professional show tailored for people with a true interest into the Indonesia tourism product. The idea is to let TIME Pasar Wisata open up potential for new tourism development and be a highly-professional, B-to-B event,” said the Indonesian Tourism Promotion Board chairman Pontjo Sutowo.
Transactions at Pasar Wisata reached US$ 50 million in 2007 with 60.5 million being ecxpected for the 2008 edition. The decision in 2003 to go away from Jakarta and host the event in a different Indonesian city every two years is already an opportunity for buyers to experience new destinations, besides Bali or Jakarta.
“The hosting of TIME Pasar Wisata can also be seen as a major catalyst to upgrade infrastructure and a bet on the future of a destination. If we just look at Makassar, the decision to host the show, sped up the construction of a convention and exhibition center, as well as the upgrading of the airport with a brand-new, air terminal and a toll road to town. We can see also improvement in the city’s cleanliness,” added Sutowo.
TIME organizers expect that future editions, which will be hosted in 2008 and 2010 on Lombok Island, near Bali, will have a similar effect. “A conference and exhibition hall is already in planning, and it would take approximately 7 to 12 months to complete it,” explained Meity Robot, TIME chairwoman. Western Nusa Tengara government reassured its commitment to boost both infrastructure and access to Lombok before the next TIME.
TIME will then remain as the ideal meeting venue to look at Indonesia’s renewed dynamism in tourism. Over the last two years, the tourist industry sharply recovered with foreign-visitor arrivals growing from 4.87 million in 2006 to 5.51 million in 2007. And the launch of a “Visit Indonesia Year 2008” is further stimulating the market despite a lack of international exposure.
“We targeted earlier this year some 7 million international travelers for the entire year,” declared Sapta Nirwandar, director general for tourism at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. However, the plunge in stock markets around the world, as well as the deepening of the financial crisis are likely now to have an impact, as I expect that our total arrivals will now be revised to 6.5 million. We still think that we can still achieve eight million travelers by next year.”
The Ministry of tourism announced to extend into 2009 the “Visit Indonesia Year” with a stronger focus on marine and MICE tourism. According to Nirwandar, the Ministry requested some US$ 30 million for marketing and promotion of which over US$ 20 million would be dedicated to international activities.