SINGAPORE - Indonesia wants to triple the number of international tourists in the next few years in a bid to boost its flagging economy weakened by a sliding rupiah.
"We have high ambitions to bring in 20 million more tourists within the next two to three years," said the country's Tourism Minister Arief Yahya in a press release announcing the appointment of Ogilvy Public Relations, Indonesia to help drive the 'Wonderful Indonesia' branding campaign.
"This year, 'Wonderful Indonesia' ranked 47 as the best branding in the world out of 144 countries, by the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index World Economic Forum - we are extremely proud of this and determined to continue the momentum," said Mr Arief.
Indonesia has seen steady growth in the number of foreign tourists with arrivals growing by more than 7 per cent in 2014 to 9.44 million. The Ministry of Tourism has been given a target to increase the contribution from tourism to Indonesia's total growth from 9 per cent in 2014 to 15 per cent by 2019.
The country, however, is now grappling with a haze crisis caused by illegal forest fires. The blanketing haze from the fires, often burning over dry peatland, has affected millions across Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, as well as in parts of the Philippines and Thailand more recently.
The Indonesian government has in the last one week started multi-lateral firefighting operations involving Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, China and Australia.
The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in South Sumartra and Kalimantan, the worst hit areas by the fires, continue to remain in "very healthy" or "hazardous" levels on Monday morning.
PSI in Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra peaked at 819, which is in the hazardous zone, at 5am before falling to 313 PSI at 10am.
In Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan, where schools were shut for more than three weeks, the PSI was at 936, way above hazardous levels.
Most of the firefighting and haze mitigation efforts have been focused on South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan due to the severe conditions in both provinces.
Meanwhile, early estimates by the Joko Widodo administration had indicate that the haze crisis could set Indonesia back by up to 475 trillion rupiah (S$47 billion).
However, observers told The Straits Times last week that economic pains aside, the country's global standing will also take a hit if it does not resolve the decades-old crisis.