JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - There has not been a single direct international flight to Bali since its reopening to foreign tourists on Oct 14.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno cited several reasons as to why foreign tourists still hesitated to visit Indonesia. Among them were unattractive quarantine locations and direct flights opening to the countries of origin of foreign tourists while they did not live there but in other countries for work.
Bali meanwhile, is being prepared to welcome the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in October next year, and vigorous health protocol measures are being enforced to prevent Covid-19 infection.
University of London professor Mark Hobart stated in 2015 that "Bali is a brand", which allowed it to sell anything. In this context, Bali has a brand advantage in Indonesia to attract foreign tourists, but it must still adapt to the current situation.
And a brand is a way of getting more money for an item than it is really worth. Through brands, consumers can immediately know the quality of products and the expected features and services that can be obtained. With a well-developed brand, market share will follow.
Bali, as an Indonesian storefront, is a charismatic brand that ignites attention, interest and passion. It helped make the decision of world leaders to come to Bali. President Joko Widodo's invitation as host of the G-20 Summit next year to world leaders at the 2021 Summit in Rome recently, reminded the world community that Indonesia is safe and able to welcome foreign tourists in the midst of the pandemic.
Moreover, the G-20 presidency in the hands of President Jokowi is strategic for the recovery of Indonesian tourism as a whole. Making Bali a value for money destination for foreign tourists from various countries, such as its positioning before the pandemic, will not be easy.
The image of Bali, and Indonesia in general, as a tourism destination that is safe and thorough in managing Covid-19, as well as the availability, capacity and quality of tourism products, needs to find the right formula to deal with the changes in behaviour and desires of global tourists as a result of the pandemic.
There has been a reorientation of long-distance travel routes to medium and short-haul trips, a decrease in spending and length of stay, as well as the number of trips tourists take abroad as they prefer to travel within their own country.
"Wonderful Indonesia", the country's branding for Indonesian tourism, is now being tested in its ability to attract foreign tourists. The tourism brand, which is characterised by such attributes as wonderful people, wonderful culture, wonderful destinations and wonderful investments, must provide inspiration, motivation and leverage for foreign tourists to make Indonesia a top choice for travel during the pandemic.
It is important that there are efforts in foreign diplomacy. Strengthening the image, or brand value, of Indonesia, and in particular Bali and Riau Islands, in the eyes of foreign tourists, is a wise choice to boost the confidence of foreign tourists to travel to Indonesia. The trust and loyalty of customers in Indonesia as a tourism destination brand is needed to tap the global tourist market during the pandemic.
Tourism as a commodity does not only depend on the smoothness and success of the business modes of the tourism actors themselves. In the midst of the global tourist market opportunity, the producer-consumer relationship in the tourism industry, which in the current situation requires active participation from the state, will determine Indonesia's brand as a global tourist destination.
Quality tourism in Indonesia, for example, can be piloted in Bali. Bali's Deputy Governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana, said recently he welcomed the reopening of Bali for foreign tourists, but for the time being did not want backpackers. This statement was in line with Coordinating Maritime and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, who wanted Bali to remain clean with the arrival of quality foreign tourists.
The definition of quality foreign tourists can be clarified through two aspects, first, foreign tourists who come to spend big sums of money on various tourism-related goods and services.
Second, in terms of length of stay, quality tourists are not oriented toward spending the minimum amount of money to get the maximum benefit of the tour, buying a tour package with a tight itinerary and a short duration of time.
Quality tourism requires quality inputs, processes and outputs. In terms of inputs, in looking at all parameters, quality tourism leads to the optimal absorption of local resources in the tourism chain, starting from raw materials, suppliers and local human resources, including investors who are oriented toward tourism ideals.
For improving the quality of human life and the environment, and not merely pursuing short-term profits, the diplomacy currently being conducted by the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry and related ministries and institutions can optimise the trust in Bali's tourism brand, and in the whole of Indonesia.
- The writer is a lecturer in the Tourism Study Program of the School of Tourism, the University of Ciputra. The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.