Indonesia Pumps More Money into Tourism

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has been given a significant financial boost to attract more tourists, the minister said on Thursday. Tourism Minister Jero Wacik said the ministry’s budget for this year has been increased by 36 percent from its 2009 level to Rp 1.366 trillion, plus Rp 426.3 billion for marketing. In a press conference short on details, Jero, who often evaded direct questions, said the ministry now answered to the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy, not the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare. He said the increased budget was the reason for the shift. Jero said the budget was still insufficient but added that he was optimistic that the tourism sector would continue to grow. “The next five years will be harder because we have a working [performance] contract with the president, but I am sure we will continue to be as successful as we have been over the past five years,” he said. “Visit Indonesia Year” in 2008 saw a record number of tourists arriving in the country: 6.4 million compared to 5.5 million visitors in 2007. Tourism generated $7.3 billion in 2008, according to the ministry, up from $5.75 billion the previous year. Tourist arrivals are expected to suffer in 2009 due to the global financial crisis, but in March the ministry was still forecasting a slight increase. Jero said challenges still facing the tourism industry included immigration issues and the number of flights into the country. But he said he was optimistic that flagship carrier Garuda would be able to increase the number of direct flights it operated, including to European countries after its ban was revoked. Its ban on flying to the EU was lifted in August. Jero said he would collaborate directly with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights on immigration issues, specifically visas for tourist arrivals. “We cannot let the bureaucratic system in immigration offices create difficulties for foreign tourists,” he said. Asked about his strategy to boost tourism, including during the first 100 days of his new term, Jero said it was too early to comment. “We are still thinking about the best strategy to boost this sector. I will collaborate with my staff and announce it soon,” he said.

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