Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia`s tourism which has continued to grow in recent years is considered immune to the impact of economic crises so that it is being touted as a safety belt for the country in the face of the ongoing global economic meltdown.

"Indonesian tourism is not vulnerable to economic crisis so that the tourism sector along with the domestic market can serve as a safety belt for the national economy," Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said on Wednesday (Dec. 7).

Over the last three years, the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the country has continued to increase where in 2009 it rose to 6.4 million and to over 7 million in 2010. This year the tourism ministry is targeting 7.7 million arrivals.

"The tourism sector is Indonesia`s safety belt against global crisis because it is not as fragile as other sectors such as trade," she said at a seminar organized by ANTARA National News Agency.

The increase in the number of tourist arrivals indicates that tourism is not much affected by global crisis, just like other tourism in the world. The UN-World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recorded a positive growth in global tourism, namely 6.6 percent in 2010 while up to recently it had risen to 4.5 percent

This was a positive development if it is compared with its development during the previous crisis when it faced a global challenge. The development of the tourism sector in the span of 15 months in the 2008-2009 period experienced negative growth.

"We need not worry about our tourism because we have big tourism potentials. Indonesia is the largest archipelagic country and is the world`s fourth most populous nation with a population of 237 million," the minister said.

She said that Indonesia stretched 5,120 km from the east to the west and 1,760 km from the north to the south. Besides, it was ranked in the 39th position among 139 cultural heritage rich countries.

"We have eight World Cultural Heritage Sites with the potentials to serve as host for various international festivals and exhibitions, as well as strong creative industries," the minister said.

From the age aspect, the minister said that most of the Indonesian people were still at the productive age of less than 29 years old.

All these are assets in the development of Indonesia`s tourism which raises the government`s optimism. Therefore, Mari Elka Pangestu said she was optimistic the country`s foreign tourist arrival target for this year - set at 7.7 million - would be met.

"We are optimistic the target of foreign tourist arrivals this year will be met. Although there is a debt crisis in Europe it has not affected tourist arrivals," the minister said.

According to the chief of Central Board of Statistics (BPS) Deputy Chief for distribution and service statistics, Djamal, the number of tourist arrivals in the ten months through October 2011 has reached 6.27 million, an 8.47 percent increase compared with 5.78 million in the same period last year.

After all, November and December are peak seasons for foreign tourists to arrive in Indonesia. So, the target set at 7.7 million is most likely to be achieved.

It is this reason that the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry has set the target of tourist arrivals for 2012 at 8 million, with foreign exchange earnings projected to reach US$8.98 billion.

The figure represented a 7.35 percent increase compared to this year`s, the director of the ministry`s market development, Sadar Pakarti Budi said meanwhile.

In anticipation of unexpected thing next year, the ministry had set three versions of tourist arrival targets, namely a pessimistic target of 7.8 million, a moderate target of 7.9 million and optimistic target of 8 million, he said.

He expressed his optimism the tourism industry would grow positively according to the target thanks to the improving competitive edge of the Indonesian tourism.

The competitive edge of the Indonesian tourism would become increasingly stronger in terms of budget, tourist arrivals, foreign exchange earnings, representative offices and direct flight seats which currently stood at 15 million.

"So far we have provided visa-free facilities to 12 countries and visa-on-arrival (VOA) facilities to 64 countries," he said.

That`s why, Tourism Minister Mari E Pangestu said the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the last two years had shown an upward trend. "Even in July 2011 we experienced the highest point of tourist arrivals in the last three years which reached 750 thousand persons per month," she said.

In October this year for example, more than 656 thousand foreign tourists visited Indonesia, up 10.32 percent from 594.7 thousand in the same period last year, the Central Statistics Agency said.

Compared to September 2011, the number of tourist arrivals in October 2011 rose slightly by 0.91 percent, said Djamal.

To achieve the tourist arrival target of 8 million, the ministry would apply an integrated strategy by among others disseminating tag-line Wonderful Indonesia, eying special segments and intensifying marketing activities.

Reporter: by Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Priyambodo RH
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