Thursday, November 20, 2008


Jimbaran Beach, Bali.

Tourism in Indonesia is an important component of the Indonesian economy and an important source of foreign exchange revenues. With a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands,[1] the second longest shoreline in the world,[2] 300 different ethnic groups and 250 distinct languages,[3] and tropical climate throughout the year, nature and culture are two major components of Indonesian tourism.

Tourism in Indonesia is currently overseen by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. International tourist campaigns have been focusing largely on tropical destination with white sand beaches and blue sky imagery. Beach resorts and hotels were developed in some Indonesia islands, with Bali island as the primary destination. Cultural tourism is also an important part of Indonesia tourism industry. Toraja, Prambanan and Borobudur temples, Yogyakarta and Minangkabau are popular destinations for cultural tourism, apart from many Hindu festivities in Bali. About 5 million foreign tourists have visited Indonesia annually since 2000.[4]

However, tourism development had sometimes clashed with local people, that has created criticism over Indonesia's tourism industry. Most of the disputes were related over land possession, local traditions (adat) and the impact of tourism development to the local people. In another area, tourism industry in Indonesia faces major threats. Since 2002, several warnings have been issued by some countries over terrorist threats and ethnic/religious conflicts in some areas, which significantly reduces the number of foreign visitors.

Historical context

During the colonial era, tourism was regulated carefully by the government administration of the Dutch East Indies, with international tourists encouraged to travel in groups, and to visit the more significant 'landmark' destinations of Java, Bali and Sumatra. Much of the international tourism of the 1920s and 1930s was by international visitors on oceanic cruises. The 1930s did see a modest but significant influx of mainly European tourists and longer term stayers to Bali. Many came for the blossoming arts scene in the Ubud area, which was as much a two-way exchange between the Balinese and outsiders as it was an internal phenomenon.[6]

The Rhino was the mascot of Visit Indonesia year, 1992

Tourism more or less disappeared during World War II, and in the early years of the Sukarno era. National pride and identity in the late 1950s and early 1960s was incorporated in the monumentalism of Sukarno in Jakarta - and this included the development of international standard hotels. The political and economic instability of the mid-1960s saw tourism decline radically again. Bali, and in particular the small village of Kuta, was however, in the 1960s, an important stop over on the overland hippy trail between Australia and Europe, and a "secret" untouched surf spot.[7] In the early to mid 1970s high standard hotels and tourist facilities began to appear in Jakarta and Bali, and from this period to the end of the Suharto era, governmental manipulation of the tourism industry included an array of policies and developments to encourage increasing numbers of international tourists to both visit Indonesia and stay longer.

Sometimes tourism development clashed with local people, particularly in Bali. In 1994, an open demonstration against the new Tanah Lot development project were held and simply halted by military intervention. In 1997, mounting anger of local people reached boiling point over a strip of a beach in front of the Bali Beach Hotel.[8]

There were a number of years that were declared 'Visit Indonesia Year' - with different themes. In a number of cases, where international events interfered, some years in the "Visit Indonesia" decade were considerable disasters. Considerable cynicism on the part of some poor local communities in Java led to the appearance of graffiti on water tanks and abandoned buildings proclaiming "obyek wisata", in reference to local government authorities enthusiasm to attract interest to locations with very limited interest to international tourists who tended to tread the well-worn path between the larger, and in some cases, over-promoted "tourism objects" as they were called. With the advent of the internet and the enthusiasm for promotional websites, tourism in the twenty first century has seen the style of street vendors in busy tourist locations of the past extend to website creators - cluttered, chaotic and of varying quality. Somehow Visit Indonesia Year 2008 is planned, and on works[9].

Tourists attractions

Nature tourism

The beach at Gili Meno with Lombok in the distant background

Indonesia has well-preserved natural ecosystem such as rainforests that stretch over about 57% of Indonesia's land (225 million acres) and about 2% of them are mangrove.[10][11] One reason why the natural ecosystem in Indonesia is still well-preserved is because only 6,000 islands out of 17,000 are permanently inhabited.[12] Forests on Sumatra and Java are examples of popular tourists destinations. Moreover, Indonesia has one of longest coastlines in the world, measuring 54,716 km,[13] with a number of beaches and island resorts, such as those in southern Bali, Lombok [1], Bintan and Nias Island.[14] However, most of the well-preserved beaches are those in more isolated and less developed areas such as Karimunjawa, the Togian Islands, and the Banda Islands.

Dive sites

With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia presents ample diving opportunities. Bunaken at the northern tip of Sulawesi, claims to have seven times more genera of coral than Hawaii, and has more than 70% of all the known fish species of the Indo-Western Pacific.[15] Moreover, there are over 3,500 species living in Indonesian waters, including sharks, dolphins, manta rays, turtles, morays, cuttlefish, octopus and scorpionfish, compared to 1,500 on the Great Barrier Reef and 600 in the Red Sea.[16] Tulamben Bay in Bali boasts the wreck of a 120 meter (400 ft) US Army commissioned transport vessel, the USAT Liberty Glo.[17] Beside Bunaken and Bali, Lombok, with three Gilis (Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan), Thousand Islands and Bangka are some of the most popular diving sites in Indonesia.

Surf breaks

Surfing is also a popular water activities in Indonesia and the sites are recognised as world class sites.[18] The well-known spots are mostly located on the southern, Indian Ocean side of Indonesia, for example, large oceanic surf breaks on southern Java. However, the north coast does not receive the same surf from the Java Sea. Surf breaks can be found all the way along Sumatra, down to Nusa Tenggara, including Aceh, Bali, Banten, Java, Lombok, Mentawai Islands, and Sumbawa. On Bali, there are about 33 surf spots, from West Bali to East Bali. Sumatra is the second island with the most number of surf spots, with 18 spots. The common time for surfing is around May to September with the trade winds blowing from east to south-east. From October to April, winds tend to come from the west to north-west, so east coast breaks get the offshore winds.

Two well-known surf breaks in Indonesia are the G-Land in the Bay of Grajagan, East Java and Lagundri Bay at the southern end of Nias island. G-Land was first identified in 1972 when a surfer saw the break from the window of a plane. Since 6 to 8 foot (Hawaiian scale) waves were discovered by surfers at Lagundri Bay in 1975 the island has become famous for surfing worldwide.

National parks

Lesser bird of paradise

Komodo Dragon

The biggest national park in Indonesia is the 9,500 square kilometre Gunung Leuser National Park in the north of Sumatra island.[19] Together with Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, the total 25,000 square kilometres of national parks in Sumatra, named Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Other national parks on the list are Lorentz National Park in Papua, Komodo National Park in the Lesser Sunda Islands and Ujung Kulon National Park in the west of Java.

To be noticed, different national parks offer different biodiversity, as natural habitat in Indonesia is divided into two areas by the Wallace line. The Wallacea biogeographical distinction means the western part of Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan) have the same flora and fauna characteristics as the Asian continent, whilst the remaining eastern part of Indonesia has similarity with the Australian continent [2].

Many native species such as Sumatran elephants, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros and Orangutans are listed as endangered or critically endangered, and the remaining populations are found in national parks and other conservation areas. Orangutans can be visited in the Bukit Lawang conservation area. The world’s largest flower, rafflesia arnoldi, and the tallest flower, titan arum, can be found in Sumatra.

The east side of the Wallacea line offers the most remarkable, rarest, and exotic animals on earth.[20] Birds of Paradise, locally known as cenderawaish, are plumed birds that can be found among other fauna in Papua New Guinea. The largest bird in Papua is the flightless cassowary. One species of lizard, the Komodo Dragon can easily be found on Komodo, located in the Nusa Tenggara lesser islands region. Besides Komodo island, this endangered


Mount Bromo

Hiking and camping in the mountains are popular adventure activities. Some mountains contain ridge rivers, offering rafting activity. Though volcanic mountains can be dangerous, they have become major tourist destinations. Popular active volcanoes are the 2,329 m high Mount Bromo in the East Java province with its little desert, the upturned boat shaped Tangkuban Perahu on the outskirts of Bandung, the most active volcano in Java, Mount Merapi and the legendary Krakatau with its new caldera known as anak krakatau (the child of Krakatau). Puncak Jaya in the Lorentz National Park, the highest mountain in Indonesia and the only mountain with ice caps, offers the opportunity of rock climbing. In Sumatra, there are the remains of a supervolcano eruption that have created the landscape of Lake Toba close to Medan in North Sumatra.

Cultural tourism

Borobudur temple in Central Java

Indonesia consists of at least 300 ethnic groups, spread over a 1.8 million km² area of 6,000 inhabited islands.[1] This creates a cultural diversity, further compounded by Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and European colonialist influences.

From the 3rd century until the 13th century, Hinduism and Buddhism shaped the culture of Indonesia. The best-preserved Buddhist shrine, which was built during the Sailendra dynasty in the 8th century, is Borobudur temple in Central Java. A few kilometers to the southeast is the Prambanan complex, a Hindu temple built during the second Mataram dynasty [3]. Both the Borobudur and the Prambanan temple compounds have been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1991. In Bali, where most Hindus live, cultural festivals are major attractions to foreign tourists.

Islam has also contributed greatly to the cultural society in Indonesia. As of 2006, about 88% of Indonesians are Muslim.[22] Islamic culture is prominent in Sumatra, and a few of the remaining sultanate palaces can be seen in Medan and Pekanbaru.

Despite foreign influences, a diverse array of indigenous traditional cultures is still evident in Indonesia. The indigenous ethnic group of Toraja in South Sulawesi, which still has strong animistic beliefs, offers a unique cultural tradition, especially during funeral rituals. The Minangkabau ethic group retain a unique matrilineal culture, despite being devoted Muslims. Other indigenous ethnic groups include the Asmat and Dani in Papua, Dayak in Kalimantan and Mentawai in Sumatra, where traditional rituals are still observed.

A discussion of cultural tourism is not complete without a mention of Yogyakarta, a special province in Indonesia known as centre of classical Javanese fine art and culture.[23] The rise and fall of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic kingdoms in Central Java has transformed Yogyakarta into a melting pot of Indonesian culture.

Metropolitan tourism

Jakarta in the morning

Metropolitan tourism activities are shopping, sightseeing in big cities and enjoying modern amusement parks. The nation's capital, Jakarta, offers many places for shopping. Mal Kelapa Gading (the biggest one with 130,000 m²), Plaza Senayan, Senayan City, Grand Indonesia, EX, and Plaza Indonesia are some of the malls in the city. Another popular tourist activity is golfing, a favorite sport among the upper classes Indonesian and also foreigners. Some notable golf courses in Jakarta are Cengkareng Golf Club, located in the airport complex, and Pondok Indah Golf and Country Club. Bali has many shopping centers, for instance, the Kuta shopping center and the Galeria Nusa Dua. Nightlife of Indonesia is also popular among foreigners, especially in the big cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Manado, Denpasar and Medan .[24]

Food in Indonesia

The variety of cultures in Indonesia is reflected in the wide range of foods in the nation. Since the 15th century, many European traders have visited the archipelago to buy different kinds of spices, including pepper and mace. In modern times, many cultures and countries have influenced the cuisine of Indonesia, such as Western culture and Asian culture. Many claim that this diversity has resulted in one of the most distinctive cuisines in the world.[25]

The main principle of almost all Indonesian food is halal.[26] Rice is Indonesia's most important staple food. Most Indonesians eat rice twice a day, at lunch and dinner. The rice is usually served with a side dish, such as chicken, meats and vegetables. Although the meals are generally simple, the plentiful use of various roots, spices, grasses, and leaves adds flavor to most dishes.[25] An Indonesian meal will often be accompanied by various condiments at the table, including sambal and kecap. Other main meals, such as potato, noodles, soybeans and wheat are common. The most common method for preparing food is frying, though grilling, simmering, steaming and stewing are also used.

Indonesian cuisine is also influenced by Western culture. The most obvious example is the presence of fast food companies in Indonesia, such as McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut.

To popularise the food of Indonesia, food related events were created, such as a food festival called "Enak-Enak", runs from August 15 to August 31, 2006.[27]

International tourist arrivals

International airports

Each of the larger Indonesian islands, have at least one international airport. The biggest airport in Indonesia, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, is located in Tangerang Regency, Banten. There are four more international airports on Java, Adisumarmo International Airport in Solo, Central Java, Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Achmad Yani International Airport in Semarang, Central Java and Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta. On Kalimantan there is one international airport and there are two on Sumatra. Bali, which is part of the Nusa Tenggara Islands, has the Ngurah Rai International Airport.

Visa regulations

Tourists from Brunei, Chile, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam can enter Indonesia without a visa.[28] Citizens of these countries will be issued on arrival a permit for a 30 day stay upon presentation of a valid passport with at least six months to run. This stay permit cannot be extended or converted to another type of visa.

On February 1, 2004, Indonesia introduced unpopular and tighter tourist visa regulations. Although tourist visas were formerly free and valid for 60 days, visitors from certain countries must now purchase one of two visas on arrival: a $15USD visa valid for 10 days or a $25USD visa valid for 30 days. This was heavily protested by the tourist industry who point out that this cost adds up for families and 30 days is a very limited time to travel in Indonesia with a number of remote and hard to reach locations.[citation needed] The countries now subject to these tighter regulations include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.[29][28] On July 14, 2004, the Indonesian tourism ministry granted permission for more countries to be included on the VOA list, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Egypt, Austria, Ireland, Qatar and Luxembourg.[29] The visa on arrival cannot be extended or converted into any other kind of visa. The visa holder also has to leave the country on the 30th day of the stay.

Visit Indonesia Year 2008

The Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, has declared 2008 as a Visit Indonesia Year[9]. Visit Indonesia Year 2008 has officially launched on 26 December 2007[30]

Visit Indonesia logo

The figure of Visit Indonesia Year 2008 branding took the concept of Garuda Pancasila as the Indonesian way of life, but it was performed by perfectly modern approach. The 5 norms draw by 5 different colored lines and symbolized the Indonesian Unity in Diversity. This logo brand formulated into dynamic figure and colors as the implementation of Indonesian Dynamic which is developing. The types of letters of logo brand is driven from the Indonesian elements which perfectly by modern approach.

The targeted tourists are 7 millions. Visit Indonesia Year 2008 is also commemorating 100 years of Indonesia's national awakening in 1908

Threats to the tourism industry

Travel Warnings
Australia[31] 2006-08-21 All Indonesia Terrorist threats
UK[32] 2006-08-21 All Indonesia Terrorist threats
Central Sulawesi, Aceh
Regional conflicts

The 2002 Bali bombing was a major blow to the tourism industry in Indonesia. A series of travel warnings were issued by a number of countries. Subsequently, the rate of tourism in Bali decreased by 31%.[33] Subsequently, a bombing continued occurred each year—the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing, the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing in Jakarta, and a second bombing in Bali—which worsened the situation for the tourism industry. As of May 2008, no major terrorist attack has occurred since 2005 and the United States Government lifted its warning against travel to Indonesia.[34] In 2006, 227,000 Australians visited Indonesia and in 2007 this rose to 314,000.[34]

An outbreak of bird flu throughout the country has affected the numbers of foreign visitors. As of 2006, the outbreak had killed at least 46 people since 2005, making Indonesia the country with the highest death-toll from the recent epidemic.[35] However, since the disease has not yet been proven to mutate into a form that can transfer from human to human, the U.S. embassy, for example, has not yet issued a travel warning regarding the outbreak.[36]

Another major threat to the tourism industry are sectarian and separatist conflicts in Indonesia. Papua is still affected by Papuan separatism, while Maluku and Central Sulawesi have suffered in recent years from serious sectarian conflicts. Conversely, decades of separatism-related violence in Aceh ended in 2005 with the signing of a peace agreement between the Indonesia Government and the Free Aceh Movement.[37]

Recently in 2008, US government had lifted their travel warning on Indonesia.[38]

Guide books

Guide books and travel accounts with details of the country and people have had a long history - some books from the 1800s and early 1900s being classics with description of places that were perceived as things to see. Both private authors and government publications (such as the 1920s Come to Java books produced in Batavia by the government tourist bureau of the time) have been made each decade through to present. There were restrictions to tourism in the second world war and the mid to late 1960s - other than those two periods - travel accounts and guide books have been produced regularly. James Rush's and Adrian Vickers' texts mentioned below are excellent introductions to the range of writing that has been created.

The most popular Guide book on Indonesia in English in the 1980s was Bill Dalton's Indonesia Handbook, while from the 1990s and since Lonely Planet's edition Indonesia (Guidebook) has gone to its eighth edition in 2007. Many other guide books have also been produced - in English and other languages.

Additionally, from time-to-time major international newspapers such as the NY Times [4] write extensive articles on Indonesian tourism.

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