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Lack of Infrastructure in Indonesia for Tourists

With the advent of Visit Indonesia Year, it seems apparent that a lot of places significant to tourism in Indonesia has been sadly neglected. I would have thought that the government would have gone all-out in an effort to improve the tourism potential in the major islands of the archipelago, but, not only those but also those of the other islands. Okay, so they are not Bali per say, but travellers and tourists to parts other than Bali would be pleasantly surprised.

It seems my view is shared by one person who wrote this letter into the Jakarta Post the other day:

Tourism needs a jump start

David Kluwen’s letter (appearing in The Jakarta Post, Dec. 27) correctly highlighted that Indonesia’s tourism development has been suppressed by ineffective promotions and retrograde visa rules.

In Indonesia’s major secondary destinations, including Bromo, Malang, Brastagi, Solo, Batam and Tanjung Pinang, there were signs that many of these beautiful places were in the midst of a continuing and long term decline in foreign visitor arrivals.

A visitor can immediately see public tourism facilities, such as visitor’s centers, directional signage, tourist-oriented shopping areas and hotels, have been neglected for well over a decade.

If you ask older locals why, it doesn’t take long find out: During the 80’s and early 90’s, under the leadership of former Tourism Minister Joop Ave, Indonesia enjoyed a golden era of inbound tourist activity, (relatively) free from red tape, taxes and rent seeking civil servants.

The watershed occurred around 1983, when the 60 day red-tape free tourist visa was introduced. Over the past decade and half, however, visitors have found a holiday to Indonesia has become increasingly expensive in terms of money, time and frustrating experiences.

Visitors’ time spent “learning the ropes” — such as negotiating for tickets from touts and price gougers — starts the minute they set foot in the country, at an airport or ferry port terminal. Visitors find no useful tourist information to guide themselves. Their first experience, at the immigration counter, is all too often a bad one.

The bad experience continues where advertised hotel and restaurant prices whack hefty 20-30 percent taxes and surcharges onto each bill.

Here is just one example of the rent seeking that suppresses every part of the tourist industry: Those who visit Batam this New year may have trouble getting their favorite alcoholic drink.

Riau Islands is suffering one of its routine alcohol shortages due to one of those all-too-frequent turf wars between the civil servants (who license the distribution of alcohol), those who allow ships to pass freely on the seas, and the those who control ports.

If tourist arrivals are to ever reach their huge potential, the existing crop of untalented rent-seeking political hacks who run this important economic sector must be replaced by the kind of visionary leaders that Indonesian tourism once briefly had.

EVAN JONES
Batam, Riau Islands