This might come as a bit of a shock to some, but there is more to Indonesia than the island of Bali.
Don’t get me wrong, Bali is a beautiful and magical place with amazing people, it really is. I love living here. The guidebooks are right when they say it’s a wonderful paradise in the 17,000-plus islands of the Indonesian archipelago that stretch across the equator.
But that’s the point; it’s just one of many.
There are more islands out there, more places to discover, more opportunities, more visitors to attract, and more wealth to share.
In a recent move, and as part of an aggressive initiative to showcase some of the country’s vast wealth of resources and make a serious attempt at moving in a positive direction, the government of President Joko Widodo plans to focus on ten tourist destinations away from the Island of the Gods in 2016.
It’s a smart move considering that Bali’s infrastructure is struggling to cope with the ever increasing number of tourist arrivals and some would argue so is its culture. But it’s also a smart move if Indonesia wants to really move into the big leagues of global tourism and be a major player in the world’s fastest growing industry, because for that to happen Indonesia has to move beyond Bali. There’s no other way.
It’s time to stop thinking of everywhere else in the country as a ‘Bali-In-Waiting’ or as an afterthought to Bali’s popularity. It’s time to start focusing on promoting and developing different areas in their own right; areas like Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Tanjung Kelayang in Belitung, Tanjung Lesung in Banten, the Thousand Islands in Jakarta, Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Mount Bromo in East Java, Mandalika in South Lombok, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi, and Morotai in North Maluku are all so unique that their potential for tourism is mind-blowing.
But it can’t happen just by wishing it to be so. It needs a change of mindset.
It’s going to require a concerted and collaborative effort from various government ministries including Public Works and Public Housing (to build basic infrastructure), the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry (to provide electricity and communication networks) and the Transportation Ministry (to handle the development of seaports and airports.)
The biggest question mark, however, has to be over the bureaucracy’s ability to cut through mountains of red tape and coordinate in an effective, efficient and transparent way. There’s no denying it’s a big ask, but it’s one that Jokowi’s government feels it’s capable of answering and delivering on. They’ve laid down the plan and they’re ready for the challenge.
The plan is supposed to start this year with each area having its own and independent development authority, similar to the model Batam has been working with since 1971, and armed with the responsibility of land management, licenses, tax incentives, and other strategies geared to smoothing out the business process and attracting investments.
Here’s the rub; if these areas are to flourish and achieve their goals they’re going to need investors and these investors must feel comfortable and confident that they will achieve significant returns. Sorry, but there’s just no point if they don’t. No investor worth their salt is going to throw good money away into bottomless pits of pocket lining and into empty boxes full of smoke and mirrors. This might have been the way business was done in the past, but it’s not how it works today. Times have changed.
But it can be done.
It can be done with proper planning, structures, master plans, feasibility studies, environmental impact reports, and a genuine interest in community based economic initiatives. Everyone’s got to be a winner here not just the fat cats getting fatter.
Global hospitality intelligent services such as HVS and their local strategic partners are on standby and they are more than ready, able, and willing to do their part in helping these roll-outs be the best they can be. It is possible and it’s going to be a real team effort.
Asking for the right help should be at the top of the list for each of the ten designated areas. These new authorities need to understand, and be supportive of, a range of initiatives, which go beyond the Bali style model and the traditional hotel-resort-adventure-shopping-experience the island has become.
It is the success of the peripheral businesses and employment opportunities in support services such as training, education, construction, and transportation as well as cultural rejuvenation, which will either make or break an area. These are the foundations necessary for sustained growth.
There are many factors to consider but the bottom line has to be win-win. Everyone has to be able to enjoy the benefits, not just the privileged few. Unfortunately, this is something Bali hasn’t dealt with very well and it will come back to bite.
Learning from the mistakes the country’s most popular tourist destination has made will serve these ten regions very well in the years to come. Let’s hope someone is listening!
These are the 10 designated tourism hot spots and they’re all worth visiting:
Lake Toba in North Sumatra
Tanjung Kelayang in Belitung
Tanjung Lesung in Banten
Thousand Islands in Jakarta
Borobudur Temple in Central Java
Mount Bromo in East Java
Mandalika in South Lombok
Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara
Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi
Morotai in North Maluku