Minister of Tourism, Indonesia, Arief Yahya

Minister of Tourism for Indonesia, Mr. Arief Yahya
Indonesia's Minister of Tourism, Arief Yahya

In an exclusive interview, Minister of Tourism, Indonesia, Arief Yahya shares with Panayiotis Markides how the destination is working on a raft of developments to bolster its tourism product across the board.

TTG: How important is tourism as an industry for Indonesia’s economy?

The current Indonesian government has acknowledged tourism as a vital sector and set it as one of the main priorities for the country’s economic and national development.


We have been promoting Indonesia’s status as a world-class maritime country. This is important in supporting strategic sectors of the economy and politics, including our promising marine tourism products.

Another strategy was ‘one stop shopping’ that encourages the growth of investment in all sectors, including tourism. This policy was intentionally prepared to anticipate the competition amongst South East Asian countries for ASEAN Economic Community that started in 2016. Additionally, the Indonesian government has allocated a budget of almost $200 million in order to support Indonesian tourism promotional programmes. This budget is intended to support the diversification and promotion effectiveness in larger markets.

TTG: What steps are you taking to increase tourism’s contribution to Indonesia’s economic growth?

We are collaborating with other parties to boost tourism development in Indonesia. For example, we have been working closely with the Directorate General of Immigration to give a visa free facility to travellers from 90 countries around the world (including nine Middle Eastern countries) since 2015 to gain more foreign nationals.

Regarding cruise tourism, we have been working together with the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs to simplify the licensing process for cruises and yachts to enter Indonesian seas, which is conducted through the Clearance Approval to Indonesian Territory (CAIT) by online one stop service. With this programme, we hope that the visitation of foreign cruises and sailing vessels will grow from 750 yachts in 2014 to 1,500 yachts in 2019.

The visa free regulation and other new tourism-related policies are enhancing the increased number of foreign tourist arrivals. By the end of 2015, the total number of foreign tourist arrivals to Indonesia reached 10,406,759 visitors. Likewise, this growth represented an increase of foreign exchange in the tourism sector of around $12.4 billion. Along with this achievement, the average length of stay of foreign tourists in Indonesia has also stretched to 8.5 days with average spending of $1,190 per tourist per visit.

The enhancement of tourism is also being supported by infrastructure and superstructure development, such as new airports, roads, shopping centres, and railways as well as human resource development. As an example, from 2007 to 2015, we have a certified tourism workforce of 81,627 in varied sub-sectors like hotels, spa, travel agents, touring guide, culinary, MICE, rafting, and diving.

TTG: What investments are currently underway in Indonesia to bolster the industry?

The Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia together with various tourism stakeholders has prepared a variety of projects. First, we continue the marketing and promotion strategies with a focus on strengthening the positioning and branding of ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ in our major market countries. It aims to position Indonesia as ‘a wish list country’ for world travellers. To achieve this, the Ministry of Tourism massively holds worldwide marketing communication campaigns through the channels of international media (for example print, electronic, online) and outdoor media (such as buses, taxis, MRT, bus station, train, shopping centres) with images of tourist destinations in Indonesia. We also do numerous offline promotional activities such as international tourism fairs, sales missions, as well as familiarisation trips.

We are also developing more targeted markets, such as the medium long-haul and non-traditional markets. Our tourism marketing programmes in 2015 have encouraged us to add more markets in 2016, such as the Northern Europe and non-traditional Middle Eastern and African countries like Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Egypt. We also develop destinations for special interests tourists, for instance halal friendly tourism destinations, such as Lombok and Jakarta.

As an example of the infrastructure development programme related to tourism is the plan to build a high-speed train line between Jakarta and Bandung for better connection between the two major cities. We hope that tourists can benefit from this by travelling from Jakarta to Bandung without traffic jams.

Furthermore, to improve the connectivity, Indonesia is planning to build many infrastructure projects, such as constructing railway lines of Trans Sumatra, Trans Kalimantan, Trans Sulawesi, and Trans Papua, as well as increasing train lines capacity from a single track into a double track in Sumatra and Java. This is also supported by the construction planning of 125 new airports in Indonesia to improve the facilities and the capacity of inter-island flights in the future.

Other main strategies are to develop marketing and promotion of Indonesian tourism through information communication technologies (ICT) and e-tourism, enhance the branding of ‘Wonderful Indonesia’, flourish the marine tourism, advance the infrastructure and visa-free policy, as well as to improve the Human Resources in field of tourism. Hopefully through those holistic strategies, we could achieve the number of international arrivals of 12 million tourists from the whole markets, and 300 thousand visitors from the Middle East by the end of 2016.

TTG: Are any segments (such as family travel, sports, MICE, or others) in particular being looked at for development?

We are not only targeting the number of tourists from the large markets, but also trying to reap foreign tourists from more broadened special interest tourism segmentation. This is because we are aware of changing trends among travellers’ types, interests, and behaviours. For example, halal insurance is important for the billions of potential Muslim travellers from different countries and culture to travel while keeping their necessities to pray and eat halal food. Indonesia offers the concept of ‘friendly halal tourism’ which includes halal friendly hotels, halal restaurants, halal friendly tour planning, and halal spa. For different experiences, Indonesia has many interesting spots for Muslim family visitors such as Dunia Fantasi in Jakarta; Taman Safari in Bogor; Water Parks in major cities like Jakarta, Denpasar, and Yogyakarta; Transworld in Bandung; and The Jungle in Bogor.

In line with the policy of President Joko Widodo, the maritime sector also became an important agenda of economic development for tourism in Indonesia. Since last year, we have been ‘selling’ Indonesian marine and cruise tourism attraction more intensively. This is inspired by the Indonesian archipelago having over 17,000 islands and coastal areas that offer diverse experiences and tourism activities, both at seas and resorts. We are also preparing 10 destinations which will be promoted with destination branding and integrated marketing communication plan, namely: Great Jakarta; Great Bali; Great Riau Islands; Joglosemar (Jogjakarta, Solo, and Semarang); Bunaken, Wakatobi, and Raja Ampat; Medan; Lombok; Makassar; Bandung; Banyuwangi.

Furthermore, we are also trying to promote Indonesia as a wonderful destination for diverse special tourist attractions by participating in various international exhibitions of special interest tourism such as DEMA Show [the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association: November 16-19, 2016, Las Vegas, the US], Cruise Shipping [Seatrade Cruise Global: held 14-17 March 2016, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the U], Boot Düsseldorf [Düsseldorf boat show: January 23-31, 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany], Golf, and MICE.

TTG: What are Indonesia’s key feeder markets for tourism?

Indonesia is further expanding its target markets for international tourist arrivals. In previous years, Indonesia traditionally targeted only from major market countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia.

This year, we will further extend the coverage of our targeted markets to non-traditional countries that have growing number of tourists for Indonesia; it includes 15 targeted countries in total. The Middle Eastern countries are examples of these.

Until the end of 2015, the number of tourists from the Middle East to Indonesia came to 182,143 arrivals. Although the number is still low, we believe that the Middle Eastern markets are very promising. Therefore, in 2016, in addition to the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we have scheduled more tourism promotional activities in other Middle East regions, such in Oman, Egypt, Kuwait, and Qatar. We consider this as an opportunity to introduce Indonesia as a world-known destination for all tourists from all countries, including the Middle Eastern and African countries.

TTG: How important is the MENA market for Indonesia?

We are positioning Indonesia as a tourist destination that offers a diverse variety of products and destinations for Middle Eastern and African tourists. Our focus is to increase awareness about Indonesia amongst MENA tourists. We are further promoting special offerings as well as establishing cooperation with various tourism stakeholders, including industries. We have also scheduled several familiarisation trips for travel agents, journalists, bloggers and artists from MENA countries. We also facilitate promotional programmes at various events overseas, including Arabian Travel Market in Dubai [held April 25-28, 2016], as well as WTM Africa in Cape Town for 2016 [held April 6-8, 2016].

TTG: How is Indonesia appealing to this market and how are you working to attract MENA travellers?

Indonesia has a wide range of special interesting attractions for MENA tourists. Some of them are well-known sports attractions like bicycling, diving, water sports, and paragliding; cultural tourism and heritage; medical and wellness facilities such as spa; cruise and boat tours; MICE for business travellers; shopping experiences from traditional markets to internationally well-known malls; distinctive and traditional culinary, and also a variety of adventure tourism in the beautiful nature. Simply, Indonesia has everything for MENA tourists: sun, shopping, beaches, luxury resorts, best quality spa, unique wildlife, cultural richness, natural beauty, and unforgettable honeymoon experiences.

In addition, we are also specifically enhancing promotion for our halal tourism products. As the most Muslim populated country in the world, Indonesia is a home of more than 200 million Muslims. With various tourist offerings, Indonesia is the best choice for Muslim travellers to enjoy various experiences with reassurance in terms of halal preferences and services. Lombok has been awarded as ‘The Best Halal Honeymoon’ and ‘The World’s Best Halal Tourism Destination’ in 2015. Of course, this encourages us to make Indonesian halal tourism the best branding, beside our other tourist offerings.