Indonesia turns to Bali, Batam to boost tourism

JAKARTA - Indonesia will focus on Bali and islands near Singapore rather than developing more remote spots in the world's largest archipelago, as it seeks to double tourist numbers by 2020.

The government's marketing budget has been increased fourfold to 1 trillion rupiah (S$100 million) this year, a sign of President Joko Widodo's commitment to the industry, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said on Tuesday.

That money will be spent promoting Bali, Jakarta and the islands of Batam and Bintan close to Singapore, which generate about 90 per cent of the country's revenue from international tourists, he said.

"We cannot promote every destination in Indonesia as it's very expensive," Mr Arief said in Jakarta. "Our strategy is that tourism development follows infrastructure development."

Indonesia attracted less than half the international tourists than its neighbours Malaysia and Thailand did last year.

As growth in South-east Asia's largest economy slows to the weakest in more than five years and the government misses its revenue targets, the president has pledged to double arrivals in his five-year term. Catching up with its neighbours would also attract funds to help the country narrow a shortfall in its current account that has weighed on the rupiah.

On Bali, known for Hindu culture and rice paddy landscapes, the aim is to spread tourism development more widely as it is concentrated in the south near the main city Denpasar, said Mr Arief. The government is pushing ahead with plans to build a two-runway international airport at Singaraja in northern Bali, and a toll road from Denpasar to Gilimanuk in the west of the island, he said.

Mr Arief said he will spend about half the marketing budget on digital media, including TripAdvisor, to garner interest from Singapore, Malaysia, China, Japan and Australia.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'Indonesia turns to Bali, Batam to boost tourism'. Print Edition | Subscribe