Hotels and the Visit Musi 2008

Hotels in Palembang are upbeat about higher occupancies rates after the launch of Visit Musi 2008 initiated by the South Sumatra provincial administration. It is hoped the events linked to the initiative will increase the number of tourist arrivals in Palembang. Since the launch of the program up to the first quarter of 2008 (March 2008), there has been an increase in the number of visitors spending the night in Palembang.

According to the general manager of Hotel Aston Palembang, Herman Courbois, since the launch of Visit Musi 2008, followed by a series of national and international cultural events and seminars as well as events on the province’s cultural calendar, the number of visitors staying at Hotel Aston has risen by 65 percent.

“Many activities that the provincial administration have hosted in the Visit Musi 2008 program have really helped increase the number of visitors staying at our hotel,” said Herman Courbois. He however, stopped short of revealing the exact numbers.

Although the increase is most likely attributable to Visit Musi 2008 activities, as an initial step, it is a good sign according to Khairul Saleh.

In the future, he hopes that there will be an increase in tourist arrivals because tourists want to visit Palembang of their own accord and not just to attend a government-sponsored event.

“It will take time, but in the future tourists will come here not solely prompted by attractive events but because they want to see the tourist sites here,” said Herman, who has lived in Indonesia for 12 years.

From Herman’s observation, one of the basic problems in the tourism business in South Sumatra is the lack of qualified human resources and poor infrastructure at tourist sites outside Palembang municipality, such as Mount Dempo (Pagar Alam), Lake Ranau (Ogan Komering Ulu) and Lake Teluk Gelam in Ogan Komering Ilir regency.

He further said that the province must ensure that there are enough reliable and capable tourist guides. These guides must really be knowledgeable about the history of the tourist sites so that they really can help visiting tourists.

“Even those operating a ketek or a small boat on River Musi must be taught how to converse in English so that they can engage in short conversations in basic English. In fact, sanitation and security are adequate now,” he said.

“The tourism business in South Sumatra today is much better than, say, five years ago. Today, Palembang has a hotel of international standard, an entertainment center and tourist sites have been restored. However, tourist sites outside Palembang still lack good infrastructure, such as good roads. In addition, many of these tourist sites are not well looked after,” said Herman, also the first chairman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association of South Sumatra chapter in charge of hotels and also a member of the management board of Musi Tourism.

Hotel Aston itself, he said, fully supports Visit Musi 2008 and has introduced a number of measures to introduce tourist sites in Palembang. One innovation is a special television channel for Hotel Aston guests. This channel is broadcast in two languages: English and Indonesian.

“The result is quite good as this channel can be used as a reference for our guests here. At least they become familiar with the tourist sites in Palembang. If they don’t have time to visit these places now, they will come again some other time,” said Herman, who said that the channel was set up in cooperation with a local private television station.

Meanwhile, according to Prayudhi Tama, public relations manager of Hotel Horison Palembang, the hotel saw an 85 percent increase in the number of visitors in this quarter compared to the same period last year. However, he added, it was not clear whether the increase was due to the Visit Musi 2008 program.

“There is an increase but this is related with business activities, not solely because of the Visit Musi 2008 program,” he noted.

Hotel Horison Palembang itself, he said, is taking an active part in ensuring the success of the program through a number of activities, ranging from disseminating information about the activities on the agenda of Visit Musi 2008 to giving foreign tourists a cellular telephone containing information about the places worth visiting. “We have done this because people are limited in their capacity to provide information to foreign tourists in a foreign language,” he said.

To facilitate the mobility of tourists, the hotel also provides a free shuttle service for its guests who wish to visit a number of places of interest in Palembang municipality. The hotel, he added, also prepares authentic Palembang meals in one complete menu.

To introduce foreign tourists to the rich cultural wealth of South Sumatra, the hotel has established the Songket Corner, where weaving of songket fabric, which is unique to Palembang, is demonstrated on a hand loom. In addition, the hotel also provides free Internet access in the entire location of Hotel Horison Palembang and has produced a city map of Palembang that also contains tourist spots.

“For the Weekend Program”, we provide a shuttle service. Our guests can make use of this service to visit shopping areas or traditional tourist spots in Palembang municipality that are found on the tourist map published by the hotel,” he added.