08/13/2019, 15.33
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Not just Bali: Widodo's ambitious tourism plan

Last year the island welcomed over 6 million tourists, about 40 per cent of the 15.8 million tourists who visited the country. Indonesia’s president wants to expand the Indonesian tourist industry via a ‘10 new Bali’ initiative. In 2018 Indonesian tourism grew by 7.8 per cent, twice the global average.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, recently re-elected, is behind an ambitious plan to promote tourism in Indonesia and diversify Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

Known for tourist hotspots like Bali, Indonesia plans to boost provincial airports and access to more peripheral tourist destinations, such as Lake Toba on the island of Sumatra, more than 1,300 kilometers from the capital Jakarta.

On the island of Java, the city of Yogyakarta and its province will be able to count on a second airport that according to plans will be operational by the end of this year.

Setting off from the provincial capital, visitors will find it easier to visit an ancient Buddhist temple in Borobudur (picture 1) and a Hindu temple in Prambanan, important UNESCO archaeological sites.

Although the two sites already attract many visitors, foreigners prefer to head to the beaches of Bali, east of Java and by far the most popular tourist destination.

According to government statistics, more than six million tourists visited the island last year, about 40 per cent of the total 15.8 million foreigners who travelled in Indonesia.

Re-elected in April, Widodo wants to boost the country’s tourist industry through an initiative called ‘10 new Bali’.

The president has been promoting the plan at meetings with foreign leaders, in an attempt to attract more investment.

Leader of the world’s most populous Islamic country, Widodo has expressed a desire to forge closer relations with the Middle East.

Industry experts note that Muslim tourists are a more accessible market for some of the areas covered by the government initiative.

Meanwhile, Hiramsyah Thaib, who heads the initiative, dismisses the risk of friction between locals and non-Muslim visitors in light of Indonesia’s moderate Islam.

Tourism is of paramount importance for Widodo's final presidential mandate. However, the goal of reaching 20 million tourists per year seems unduly ambitious. Based on current data, Thaib said, the top visitor tally is expected to be 18 million. Still that is a positive number.

The ‘10 new Bali’ plan (picture 2) names three priority sites for the government’s economic and infrastructural investments, namely the Mandalika Resort on the island of Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara), Borobudur temple (Central Java), and Lake Toba (North Sumatra).

Other places include Tanjung Lesung Beach (Banten), Thousand Islands (Jakarta), Tanjung Kelayang Beach (Belitung Island), Mount Bromo (East Java), the Labuan Bajo fishing village (East Nusa Tenggara), Wakatobi Resort (South Sulawesi), and Morotai Island (North Maluku).

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