Government AffairsHigh up on Sandiaga Uno's agenda are plans to develop hundreds of new tourism villages and major sporting events.

Indonesia's new tourism minister gets down to work

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New minister Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno (left) has targeted 244 villages across the archipelago to be developed into “certified sustainable tourism villages” by 2024.
New minister Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno (left) has targeted 244 villages across the archipelago to be developed into “certified sustainable tourism villages” by 2024. Photo Credit: Ministry of Tourism & Creative Economy

Since stepping into the role as Indonesia’s minister of tourism and creative economy in late 2020, Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno has wasted no time in identifying a raft of revival and development strategies.

The charismatic 51-year-old former deputy governor of Jakarta has called on Indonesia’s 90 million millennials and gen-Zers to contribute to both sectors, which employ 13 million and 20 million respectively. “Millennials and generation Z are part of the tourism and creative economy ecosystem,” he said during the ministry’s recent 'Indonesia Travel Outlook 2021' webinar.

While he has pledged to double down on Indonesia’s five “super-priority destinations”, the business person-turned-politician also has community-based tourism high on his agenda. In collaboration with the Indonesian Tourism Village Association (ASIDEWI), the ministry has targeted 244 villages across the archipelago to be developed into “certified sustainable tourism villages” by 2024.

“The development of a tourism village is community-based so that it can be an answer to the challenges of sustainable tourism, while also improving the welfare of local residents,” Sandiaga said during the ministry’s 'Virtual Indonesia: A Hidden Paradise' webinar, held in collaboration with Traval.co.

Sports tourism is also on the agenda, with several sports organisations, such as those that conduct marathons, triathlons, and golf tournaments, already committing to holding events in priority destinations.

Sandiaga will split his office hours between Jakarta and Bali — which experienced an 83% drop in foreign arrivals last year — so he can be more involved in recovery measures. The minister has insisted he needs to hear directly from tourism stakeholders himself — an encouraging sign according to hoteliers.

General manager of Hotel Nikko Bali Benoa Beach, Masaya Hasebe, believes “Pak Sandiaga Uno will definitely contribute to establishing the safety and confidence of international travel through proactive approaches and measures".

The minister is also in discussions with Bali’s provincial government and the Covid-19 taskforce to offer “work from Bali” and “study from Bali” packages, first floated by local authorities in July last year. Head of Bali Tourism Office, I Putu Astawa, has welcomed the plan, as has Hasabe.

“I believe the [work from Bali policy] has a high potential to attract more visitors if the Wi-Fi infrastructure is improved and suitable visas can be provided. [This is why we] introduced Bali’s first resort co-working space in September 2020 to welcome freelancers in the digital industry,” he said.

However, Simon Purwa, chair of Indonesian Travel Agents Association (ASTINDO) Bali, said “whether this plan will be effective in helping the industry still needs to be examined in time. Because of course, the market segment that can work or study from Bali is still limited".

Following on from his commitment to strengthening the government’s Cleanliness, Health, Safety and Environment (CHSE) protocols made during his inauguration, Sandiaga is targeting 6,500 entrepreneurs for CHSE certification by the end of 2021, adding to the existing 5,900 CHSE-certified tourism businesses across 34 provinces.

As Indonesia passed the grim milestone of one million cases in late January and the curve is yet to show signs of slowing, the minister has a tough road ahead. He has, however, encouraged industry stakeholders to be optimistic about the sector’s revival, as Bali remains high on lists of the world’s most popular post-pandemic destinations.

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