|From Anand Vardhan in Denpasar, Bali|
The Middle East crisis, which has seen the diplomatic isolation of Qatar last week, is expected to impact Indonesia’s tourism and lead to a consequential drop in foreign earnings. Bali, the single largest tourist destination of Indonesia, has been receiving some 400,000 visitors via Qatar, of which 70% are tourists.
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!
Speaking at the Bali and Beyond Trade Fair (BBTF) at Denpasar, Bali , Pitana said every single tourist is important for Indonesia as the country’s economy is faced with challenges.
He said the 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.
Ketut Ardana, Chairman of Bali & Beyond Travel Fair, confirmed that out of the 264 buyers registered for the B2B event, 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.
BBTF 2017 this year hosted 188 sellers from 19 provinces around Indonesia representing the tourism and hospitality industry, from tour operators to chain hotels and resorts as well as provincial tourism offices. Co-hosted by South Sumatra Province, the fourth annual travel fair also organized several pre-tour programs that were sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism to several destinations including the Mount Bromo and Labuan Bajo.
Earlier, addressing a tourism seminar that was held as part of the event, the Indonesian deputy tourism minister explained the recent change in the country’s tourism strategy, which seemed to have created some misunderstandings in the travel trade. Prof Pitana emphasised that the new thrust of the strategy was sustainable tourism in Indonesia and the increasing participation of local people in the tourism trade so that everyone can get the benefit of tourism. The new tourism strategy has three components, such as Great Spirit, Grand Strategy and Business Strategy. He also gave a presentation on the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism in promoting sustainable tourism in Indonesia.
Sustainable tourism has a strong connection to the caring capacity of a destination. The 10 new priority destinations beyond Bali are not meant to compete with Bali, but keeping 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, also the co-host of BBTF 2017, designed a unique booth with huge ship construction, which attracted much attention.
Representative of Swiss Contact, Ruedi Nutzi, presented their elaborate Program Wisata II that includes sustainable tourism development for selected destinations in Indonesia, covering Flores, Tanjung Puting, Toraja and Wakatobi. He explained that sustainability can be achieved by strengthening tourism competitiveness, enhancing tourism education and training, and sharing of lessons learnt.
A video presentation titled “Infinity Beauty of South Sumatra” that followed featured the enticing nature, unique culture, and mouth-watering food of the province. Paelmbang, which is part of the province, is now witnessing infrastructure development for the upcoming Asian Games in 2018. The improvement includes development of 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 display it tourism potential to the world.
Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya, who addressed the event’s closing press conference, congratulated the organising committee for the successful event. “I hope there are more sellers from domestic and overseas in the next BBTF. This event is a golden opportunity for every province in Indonesia to promote and sell the tourism destinations in their area, because not only BBTF is held within the country, it is also cost efficient,” he said. He suggested that BBTF must be made into a market place by inviting more sellers from overseas.
The event also included a pre-tour to Gili Trawangan, Mandalika, Komodo, and Bromo. The John Hardy workshop in Ubud for media delegates highlighted their eco-tourism practices. Director of Heritage and Hospitality for John Hardy, Polly Purser, gave an insight into how Bali has influenced life of so many people including her parents.
“The 60’s to 90’s was an exciting time. Bali has changed so many lives,” she explained how the company became sustainable by maintaining the connection with people, nature and culture alive.
The seminar concluded with I Made Badra, representative of Badung Regency with an introduction to several captivating tourism destinations located in Badung regency beyond Kuta.
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 management. Together with exhibitors and buyers from numerous countries around the world, BBTF facilitates Pre- Scheduled Appointments (PSA) and business sessions for buyers and sellers to negotiate on their long-term leisure and corporate travel needs. Corporations, travel agents, hotel & 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.
For the fourth Bali & Beyond Travel Fair, the committee collaborated with MichiDe International, the luxury travel expert based in Dubai. By collaborating with MichiDe, the committee aimed to bring in key international buyers and high-profile media from the Middle East region as part of the plans to further expand the success of the travel fair.