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Indonesia ramps up efforts to attract more Chinese tourists
Indonesia is aiming to attract more tourists from China as part of its target of seeing 20 million foreign tourists visit the country by 2019 from 9 million expected this year, amid enhanced efforts by the tourism ministry to hit the target.
The huge potential of Chinese tourists to boost Indonesia's tourism sector has been seen from a significant influx to Indonesia of foreign tourists owing to tourist-related mechanisms implemented by the government.
China, the world's second-largest economy, has steadily seen visitors from the Asian powerhouse visiting Indonesia increase over the past few years, according to official statistics.
Indonesia's Central Statistics Bureau (BPS) said that Chinese tourists dominated the numbers of overseas visitors through the country's main foreign tourist gates of Bali's Ngurah Rai and Jakarta's Soekarno Hatta airports at 22.20 percent and 13.44 percent respectively in August this year.
BPS data also showed that the numbers of Chinese tourists coming to Indonesia grew the most in recent years. In the first 8 months of this year, Chinese tourists visiting Indonesia grew 20.74 percent to 779,348 people, compared to the same period last year.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Indonesian Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said that his ministry has regarded Chinese tourists as the country's most important visitors.
He added that even though in terms of numbers they were not as many as those from Singapore or Malaysia, which ranked the largest and second largest respectively, the growth in numbers of Chinese tourists visiting the nation was the highest.
"Until Oct. this year, growth of Chinese tourist arrival was 21 percent. The highest if compared to the others. That is why Chinese tourists have become our preferred customers. In 2014 Chinese visitors totaled almost 1 million. For 2015, this could reach 1.3 million. We are projecting for next year around 2 million Chinese visitors," the minister told Xinhua.
Arief, the former chief operating officer of Indonesia's state-run telecommunication firm Telkom, said that tourism has been set as part of five government prioritized sectors since 2014.
Besides tourism, which is ranked as the fifth priority, the government also prioritizes infrastructure, maritime, energy and food sectors, he said.
Despite the regulation and contacts with Chinese authorities to facilitate its aim to attract more tourists from China, Arief said that Indonesia needs to make herculean efforts to address the aim, among others in its promotion sector, and expand more destinations for the tourists.
"From the regulation side, we have granted free visas for Chinese tourists. To facilitate Chinese tourists while they are here, we are now preparing 600 Chinese-speaking guides for the whole country, especially in Bali. We are also actively contacting Chinese authorities to provide visiting teachers here or sending students to learn the Chinese language and culture in China," Arief added.
Unlike those which have been taken by neighboring countries of Singapore and Malaysia to tap fortune from the visit of Chinese tourists, Arief said his ministry realizes that Indonesia still has minimum promotion activities to facilitate visit of more Chinese tourists into the country.
"Singapore and Malaysia have more frequent direct flights to China, up to 86 percent and 78 percent respectively. At the same time Indonesia now only has 37 direct flights to China. That is why I plan to talk with domestic and Chinese airlines to boost their direct flights serving Indonesia to China and vice versa," Arief added.
Indonesia is also planning to expand more tourist destinations for Chinese tourists other than Bali which has been their favorite so far. The North Sulawesi province capital of Manado and its outskirts in the eastern part of the nation were picked as an alternative destination that offers an abundance of water sports activities.
In addition, the Indonesian government also plans to expand the Zheng He Maritime Road tour package that offers historical tours of the Chinese Great Admiral Zheng He's visit to Indonesia some 600 years ago.
Indonesia has made Batam in Riau, Semarang in Central Java and Cirebon in West Java as cities included in the tour package which was officially launched in February this year, and plans to expand it to 9 other cities across the nation.
The tourism ministry also plans to make contacts with authorities in Malaysia and Vietnam, two ASEAN nations believed to have hosted the visit of the admiral hundreds of centuries ago, regarding its plan to expand such a tour.
The minister added that Indonesia would also support the idea to launch a Maritime Silk Road Tour package initiated by China as part of its Belt and Road initiative that makes tourism and culture an important cornerstone.
"I would like to emphasize that this is very good initiative, Indonesia is in a position to support China as the initiator of this road," he said, adding that he had talked about the support with the chairman of China's institution in charge of overseeing the matter.
Indonesia aims to see 8 percent contribution of its tourism sector to the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2019, with proceeds totaling 240 trillion rupiah (about 17.3 billion U.S. dollars) at that time.
By 2019, the government also wants to see Indonesia's tourism competitiveness rank raised to 30 from 70 at present according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). It also expects the tourism sector to open 13 million jobs for people.
  Source: Ecns

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