Jakarta (ANTARA News) - As a member of ASEAN, Indonesia, its tourism industry in particular, is ready for the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015 when trade, services and manpower will flow freely within the region.

"Beginning in 2015, manpower in the tourism sector will flow freely within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), but we are optimistic that the competitive edge of Indonesia`s human resources in the tourism sector is already strong," Head of Tourism Resources Development Agency of the Tourism Ministry I Gde Pitana said recently.

Indonesia`s human resources in the tourism sector would play a dominant role within the ASEAN region. To support this role, I Gde Pitana`s office had been making various efforts, among others, research, development and training.

"The research we have conducted is not always scientific in nature but practical so that it can be applied by industry at the technical and policy levels," he said. In the field of education I Gde Pitana`s office had set a target of increasing the number of graduates from higher learning institutes in tourism studies and tourism academies under the tourism ministry.

"We are optimistic because several indicators show that the competitive edge of our human resources in the tourism sector is improving," he said.

He said that in 2009, the World Economic Forum (WEF) placed Indonesia`s tourism human resources in the 40th position among 133 countries in the world. Moreover, Indonesia had for a long time been using a tourism educational curriculum based on the ASEAN Common Competency Standards for Tourism Professionals (ACCSTP). These standards were being aplied in the whole ASEAN region.

About 80 percent of the curriculum`s contents had been proposed by Indonesia which had been applying the principles for a long time.

"This means that graduates from Indonesian tourism schools, particularly higher learning institutes and academies, will be treated on equal footing with those from other countries within ASEAN," he said.

Other indicators that showed the strength of Indonesia`s tourism human resources` competitiveness was the fact that many Indonesian human resources had assumed strategic posts in a number of ASEAN countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

However, the number of human resources from other ASEAN countries working in the strategic sector of Indonesian tourism was still small. I Gde Pitana said his office continued to make efforts to increase the competitive edge of human resources of the Indonesian tourism so that in the coming several years Indonesia would become a leader in Southeast Asia.

However, the tourism ministry`s overseas orientation has been criticized as being not nationalistic. The Association of Indonesia Tour and Travel Agencies (Asita) complained that the Indonesian tourism education system only produced graduates designed for work abroad.

"The Indonesian tourism education only produces graduates oriented to work overseas," Asita spokesman for Jakarta, Jongky Adiyasa, said.

Jongky Adiyasa regretted that graduates of the Indonesian tourism schools were produced to plan products or packages for overseas destinations. In fact, they are expected to help develop the country`s tourism and design creative products that would promote new destinations that had not yet been developed in the country.

"Unluckily, they are better in producing overseas destination packages, for example, Jakarta-Singapore, Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta-Bangkok packages, not domestic packages," he said.

His side also regretted that many tourism school graduates at home chose to work overseas rather than developing the tourism sector in the country.

"This indicates that our tourism education still lacked nationalism," Jongky said.

This is ironical, as currently the Indonesian tourism sector still badly needs trained workers so that he country will become more competitive, not lagging behind other neighboring nations.

Asita hopes that the government through the ministry of tourism would coordinate with tourism higher institutions and tourism academies to work out educational curriculum that takes side with the domestic tourism.

Regarding Asita`s claim that the tourism education in the country is lacking nationalism and is oriented to overseas, the ministry of tourism denied it. "It is not true. Our tourism education aims to produce graduates which are able to build the country`s tourism sector," I Gde Pitana said.

He said that although it was universal in nature, the tourism education system at higher educational institutions and tourism academies under his ministry`s auspices, remained to contain local values.

The education system aimed to produce trained tourism workers who were ready to be placed in any market. "Our tourism workers should be able to flood global market. It should not happen that our market is flooded by foreign workers," he said.

The system was designed to provide deep knowledge about the country`s tourism for graduates with the capability to work out alternative but attractive tourism products, he said.

"Exporting trained workers is far better than exporting domestic helpers who are tortured overseas," he added.

In the meantime, newly appointed Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu who replaced Jero Wacik, expressed her determination to make the tourism and creative economy sectors as a source of foreign exchange that contributed a lot to the national economy.

"I think we need discussions in this matter," she said. Though, the new tourism minister appreciated very much the achievement made so far by her predecessor Jero Wacik.

"I promise to continue Jero Wacik`s programs," Mari added.

Among the programs that deserved to be continued included the development of Belitung and Lombok islands as a tourism mainstay destination, the development of an airport in North Bali and Indonesia`s tourism branding "Wonderful Indonesia,"

Over the last three years, Jero Wacik was able to increase the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the country to 6.4 million in 2009 and over 7 million in 2010. This year the tourism ministry is targeting 7.7 million arrivals. Even, next year, the target is likely to be raised to 8 million.

"The target for this year is over seven million and until now 5.3 million foreign tourists had come to the country," Tourism and Creative Economy Deputy Minister Sapta Nirwandar said meanwhile.

He said that for 2012, Indonesia was expecting eight million foreign tourist arrivals.

Indonesia had set a higher target for 2012 because the number of foreign tourists to Southeast Asian countries was expected to grow by around five percent due to improving conditions in the region.

"We should receive up to 10 million foreign tourists by 2014 if all tourism stakeholders cooperate. This is our challenge and the existing opportunity must be seized," he said.

Reporter: by Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Priyambodo RH
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