Get The Amazing Race – Tourism Promotion Ideas

Mar 19th, 2009, in IM Posts, Opinion, Travel, by

Chris lobs a few ideas for increasing the number of tourists visiting Indonesia.

With the Tourism and Culture Minister (like most of his colleagues and almost all parliamentarians) off campaigning for the 2009 Parliamentary Elections, I thought it would be a suitable time for others to discuss some new initiatives for increasing the number of international tourists in Indonesia.

I personally hope that Indonesia will learn some lessons from Visit Indonesia Year 2008 promotion, such as:

Garuda spreading the (wrong) word at Changi airport in Singapore, January 2008
Garuda spreading the (wrong) word at Changi airport in Singapore, January 2008

  • - Ensure the advertising slogan uses correct grammar and vocabulary
    "Celebrating 100 Years of Nation's Awakening" was already plastered on Garuda's planes before anybody realised there was a problem. It became "Celebrating 100 Years of National Awakening".
  • - Even better, create a slogan that will have meaning for prospective international visitors
    While Indonesian history students may know the significance of the National Awakening in 1908, very few foreigners do. Even if they did, it will hardly encourage them to visit this country.

However, the T&CM has already indicated that the program will just be extended to this year, so maybe we could look elsewhere for initiatives in 2009.

(Yes, Indonesia has entered a bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, but I am thinking a bit more short-term.)

Here are some of my personal ideas for what the Department of Tourism and Culture could do to encourage more foreign tourists to visit Indonesia:

  1. Give more tourists free entry
    This was the case for most countries until 2004, when all (except ASEAN citizens, Peru and Ecuador!?) have to pay $US25 for a visa on arrival. Giving tourists from the most popular countries - for Bali in 2008 Japan was #1, followed by Australia - free entry will improve international competitiveness with Singapore and Malaysia (who don't charge tourists). It will also reduce airport waiting times for incoming passengers - a common complaint - as visitors can then bypass the visa counter and go direct to immigration.
  2. Create a longer visa
    Some international visitors want to stay longer than 30 days and visit many parts of Indonesia. However, tourists visas cannot be extended, requiring an expensive visa run every month to Singapore, Malaysia, PNG or East Timor. Vice President Jusuf Kalla, currently portraying himself as a "can do" politician, promised there would be a four-month tourist visa way back in January 2007, but it seems he can't do this.
  3. Try to counter negative perceptions of the country
    Whether it is unjustified or not, Indonesia is perceived by some foreigners as corrupt, prone to both natural and manmade disasters (e.g. plane crashes), and slow to act on human rights abuses and terrorism. The typical Indonesian response is either to downplay it, or describing it as an "internal matter" and asking people not to interfere, which does little to address these concerns. Maybe a different approach would be more effective.
  4. Get “The Amazing Race” to visit Indonesia

The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race is a reality TV show where competitors have to travel to various countries around the world and perform tasks there that are common customs, such as running near-naked through a Siberian town in sub-freezing temperatures:


The Amazing Race: When in Rome...

The current season is shown on the cable/satellite channel AXN Asia on Monday nights at 8pm WIB, with numerous repeats throughout the week.

How will TAR help the Indonesian tourism industry? Other countries that are a bit off the average tourist trail (e.g. Iceland) have reported a bounce in interest and arrivals after appearing on TAR. And, as you can see from this map, Indonesia is almost the only ASEAN country that TAR is yet to visit.

Past issues may have included US government travel warnings (which have recently been softened), the aforementioned concerns over air travel safety, and difficulties getting permission from relevant authorities to film in Indonesia. But a smaller regional version, The Amazing Race Asia visited Jakarta and Bali in their first series, so it is possible.

And this is where I would like to turn it over to you, the reader.

Remembering that contestants can only one or two cities/provinces, where would you recommend as showing the best of Indonesia? Similarly, what typical and (preferably) unique daily customs would you suggest participants do?

Alternately, what would you do if you were the Tourism and Culture Minister?


29 Comments on “Get The Amazing Race – Tourism Promotion Ideas”

  1. avatar sputjam says:

    It was the Thais who started the “visit Thai year” way back in the late ninetees.
    The only way to increase tousist into indonesia is to increase international flights into indonesia.
    unfortunately, the increase in exit fiskal discourage indonesian from flying out, which also discourages international flights from coming in.
    Tourism authorities in indoensia tends to focus on java and bali. ignoring northern sumatra and aceh, the part of indonesia closest to two main tourist destination in asia, i.e. phuket and penang.

  2. avatar andrey says:

    Being known mostly as the country with exotic foods and weird things is not really something to be proud of. Lets leave this sort of thing to the fijian or vanuatuans.
    Indonesia should think bigger.

  3. avatar diego says:

    Let’s be the place where the smarts would love to flock in and feel at home / enjoying the stay, work, and mingle…. like shanghai.

    This, I think, requires: smart industries and (much) less xenophobic attitude of the people.

    Can Indonesia achieve that with the growing influence of the islamists in the politic (that trickles down to the society in general)? We know the tendency of those islamists: arab-minded (backward), arabization (dry a.k.a. garing, dull, and poor artistic achievement: search youtube for “saudi dance” ha ha ha), and anti-anything-that-is-not-islamic (such as the kafirs).

  4. avatar Burung Koel says:

    The only way to increase tousist into indonesia is to increase international flights into indonesia.

    “If you build it, they will come.”

    Or Garuda will go bankrupt first.

  5. avatar ET says:

    If promotion is to be done then it should be done for quality tourism. We all have seen what cheap mass tourism has done to places like Kuta and Sanur in Bali. Melting pots of white blubber, yellow sheep and annoying locals.

    Transpot? Massaas?

  6. avatar Lairedion says:

    A slogan should be catching and short, something like “Intriguing Indonesia”, similar like “Incredible India”. You can use this for years to come. Drop the dull “Visit 2008” nonsense. No-one will remember this.

    Indonesia still has many adventurous experiences to offer (Kalimantan, Sulawesi, NTT, Nias, Mentawai, Papua). Make use of this and don’t fall in the trap of 5 star resorts, hotels and malls.

    As for TAR, visit North Sulawesi and engage in “kabasaran”, a traditional Minahasan war dance, something like a Maori haka. After that people can try such local culinary highlights as fried dog, bat and rat.

  7. avatar sakitpinggang says:

    I agree with Lairedion, someone should come up with a better slogan. The Malaysian got it right with Malaysia Truly Asia. Intriguing Indonesia is OK, but not as spot on as Incredible India.

    I’d get rid of that ad with Sherina singing Indonesiaku. Or was that ad targeted for domestic tourists?

    To get TAR to come to Indonesia is a great idea. The idea might also work for Survivor.

  8. avatar Burung Koel says:

    I thought the ‘Visit Year’ promotion was an ASEAN thing, where member countries all took a turn, but I could be wrong.

    @ Lairedion

    I’ve had the dog sate in Tomohon, when I was working for the government. One day I’m going to write a book on “Things I Have Eaten On Behalf Of The Commonwealth”. It won’t threaten the sales of Nigella’s or Jamie’s, believe me.

  9. avatar Lairedion says:

    @BK

    I’m going to write a book on “Things I Have Eaten On Behalf Of The Commonwealth”. It won’t threaten the sales of Nigella’s or Jamie’s, believe me.

    LOL, I don’t know how you look like but you certainly don’t have the looks of Nigella. I remember reading somewhere this is the main criticism to Nigella. She’s distracting people with her sexiness. As for Jamie Mrs L. thinks he looks like a “numpty” as schmerly would tell.

    Wah, offtopic banget….

  10. avatar hary says:

    At least start by having better ads. the Indonesian ones I’ve seen are terrible.

  11. avatar Lairedion says:

    Let provinces themselves handle tourism affairs with Sinyo Harry Sarundajang, the governor of North Sulawesi, as a prime example. A very brave and committed man who last year blocked the exploitation of a gold mine in Minahasa. I was truly moved by his decision. At last a governor not poisoned by greediness and corruption. This May he will preside the World Ocean Conference in Manado. North Sulawesi is really boosting its tourism and has the potential to overtake Bali as a prime tourist destination. North Sulawesi is predominantly Christian, has an excellent cuisine, a very diverse but fragile ecosystem (Bunaken, Tangkoko Batuangas Dua Sudara, Minahasa highlands) and the locals are more used to Western culture. Manado is by far the most Western city in Indonesia. Sam Ratulangi airport has been modernized, can receive wide-body airliners and, albeit smaller, has better facilities than Cengkareng (not so difficult). I do hope the Manadonese don’t make the same mistakes as the Balinese by going for 5 star resorts, hotels and malls.

    RD, re: your 3rd point:

    In the Pujiono thread there’s a Polish guy who doesn’t dare to go to Indonesia because he fears being slaughtered by some Jihadi maniac just because he’s white. While he’s obvious ignorant it’s very hard to battle such perceptions. Here in the Netherlands I receive many questions regarding safety and the current political climate. I always do my utmost best to tell Indonesia has indeed its negative aspects but generally the country is not more dangerous or safer than any Western nation, it’s much safer than the average Latin American country, let alone African and Middle Eastern countries. Reports of Westerners being kidnapped or murdered are rare or virtually non-existent and terrorist attacks occur everywhere.

    But in general, an increasingly Islamic Indonesia will put off potential visitors…

  12. avatar timdog says:

    Of the various problems that stop Indonesia capitalising on its tourist potential, I genuinely think its “Islamic” nature is the very least of them (I’m talking about the reality on the ground, not what some Polish guy thinks Indonesia is like). There are plenty of countries that are far, far, far more “Islamic” than Indonesia but which have very healthy tourist ecconomies: Morocco, Egypt, Jordan for example. “Islam” certainly doesn’t scare off the hordes of Western visitors from those places, nor, incidentally does it scare them off from Malaysia, which is certainly more “Islamic” than Indonesia.

    Egypt even has a proven threat of terrorism against tourists – in fact, I would guess that in terms of sheer number of attacks Egypt must have the worst record in the world for terrorist attacks targetted specifically against tourists, but though there are the obvious dips in arrivals in the immediate aftermath of an attrocity, within a short space of time sightseers are flooding back. (Interesting aside on the way the global media handles events, and how incidents establish themselves in worldwide public conciousness: mention Indonesia to random people around the world, and there’s a fair chance that they’ll recall the Bali Bomb in their initial associations, more than six years later. But who remembers bombs at Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab in 2005 and 2006? and other bombs on the same resort coastline a year earlier? Is Egypt’s tourist industry still crippled by the memory of these events? No…)

    Anyway, I digress. The point is that being “Islamic”, unless you take it to Talibanesque extremes, is clearly no handicap when it comes to having a healthy, expanding tourist ecconomy. And, though no one would deny that would-be orthodoxy is unattractively gaining ground in Indonesia, whatever you might think, whatever somewhat hysterical statements are sometimes made (especially around here), Indonesia probably remains further true Saudi-style “Arabisation” than virtually every other “Islamic” nation on earth…

    As I said, the least of Indonesia’s problems.
    What is a problem is a general perception of instability and insecurity (it’s interesting that while tourism in Bali is now in a very robust state, the memory of the Bali Bomb probably continues to have a more profoundly negative effect on the rest of the country), and a sense of political chaos (not entirely accurate – again, despite the proclaimations of doom in these parts as much as anywhere, and despite all the very real problems, Indonesia probably currently deserves more of a pat on the back politically, democratically speaking than any other ASEAN country – but I’m digressing again!)…

    A good slogan, one that doesn’t have an obvious shelf-life (Vistit Indonesia 2008? Damn, it’s 2009 now, no point in going!), would be nice…
    I don’t know if anyone could surpass the masterful “Malaysia Truly Asia” (really, great, great slogan), but “Incredible India” is simple enough and seems to work very well indeed (India is, do remember, more dangerous in places than Indonesia, more prone to internal strife, with every bit as much to complain about politically; it hassles and harrasses, cons and scams its foreign visitors far more than Indonesia does – yet continues to recieve them by the planeload).

    Other things: change the visa regulations back to how they used to be: 60 day visa-free entry stamp on arrival for most visitors (or hell, make it 90 days – Malaysia does). This would make a huge difference at the budget end of the tourism market (which, as government tourism strategists worldwide always forget, is the foundation upon which upmarket development is later built), and would certainly help to spread the love beyond Bali… If the government really couldn’t bear to lose all those $25 fees, then turn them into a nationwide exit tax, charged on departure as part of the immigration process (I garuntee, it would sting people less that way), but absolutely, extend the length of the stay…

    This is a very small thing that could be changed tomorrow, if someone cared to do it, and it would have far more effect, in far shorter a space of time, than any grand white elephant strategising and campaigning.

    Other ideas though: Let individual regions run their own tourism campaigns (both Kerala and Rajasthan in India run successful overseas broadcast tourism advertising – how about “Emerald Borneo”? “Sensational Sumatra”? er… “Lovely Lombok”??? er… “Jolly Java…….” yeah, I’ll keep working on those…
    But again, the best, simplest, most effective thing that could possibly be done, would be changing the visa rules – tomorrow!!!

    @diego – re. “xenophobic attitude of the people”: Indonesia is certainly institutionally very xenophobic indeed. But ask virtually any foriegn visitor to Indonesia (at least any who haven’t spent their entire trip being pestered by sarong-hawkers on Kuta Beach) what they liked most about the country, and more often than not “wonderfully warm, welcoming, hospitable people” is near the top of their list…

  13. avatar Berlian Biru says:

    Timdog makes some very cogent points about the negative perception of Indonesia around the world and it is extremely frustrating trying to get to the bottom of where this negativity comes from.

    As he says it’s not Islam; the Truly Asia nation to our north has a much stricter Islamic policy than Indonesia does (they actually raided a hotel room in which an elderly American tourist and his wife were staying a couple of years ago at 3am to make them prove they were married). The terrorism threat is exponentially higher in other countries, notably incredible India which also happens to have even more pain in the arse visa restrictions, and corrupt policemen and dodgy officials proliferate in Vietnam and Thailand without any great effect on their tourist industry.

    So whence comes this poor world image that is presented by Indonesia? Is it in part caused by lazy news reporting and data collection which sticks to perceived concepts without ever questioning them? So Thailand is a beautiful land of smiles, South Africa is an awe inspiring ‘rainbow nation’ and Indonesia is just vaguely “threatening”.

    Have a look at this report on global instability by the respected Economist Intelligence Unit;

    Manning the Barricades

    Indonesia is listed as being in the second highest level of instability this year. It is ranked as the joint 51st highest risk nation for instability in the coming year, even worse than Eritrea, Congo, Egypt and Rwanda for heaven’s sake! Now unless I’m missing something here there is no freaking way Indonesia is a more unstable nation than the Congo. Madagascar comes in at a nice stable 122 that makes the country that just had a military coup and which has installed a wee boy who used to be a DJ as president twice as “stable” as Indonesia.

    So you trawl through the report to find out why Indonesia is likely to be so unstable and basically all you can find is the fact that there are going to be elections this year, despite the last round of elections five years ago passing off without incident and providing clear evidence that Indonesia has achieved a remarkable level of political stability in the past decade. You know that the compiler of this report merely glanced through his big book of world facts, read that there would be elections and assumed the crazy Indonesians would run amok and thus poor old Indonesia is once again dismissed through no fault of its own.

    Interestingly I notice that the report regards China as being very stable indeed, even more so than such hotbeds of instability as the United States, Portugal and France.

    Well here’s my bet, pound for a penny, we will see more instability in China in the coming years than we will in Indonesia, I guarantee it.

  14. avatar Mr Tic Tac Toe says:

    The problem with tourism in indonesia is not because of rising fundamentalism, not becoz of lack of tourist destinations, not even becoz of lack of creativity,

    Its becoz of lack of necessity.

    Apparently the central gov thinks it can afford to loose its tourism industry. Instead of focusing on tourism or international trade like egypt, we focus on local consumption/consumerism based economy.

    Egypt, has tourism as #1 source of income, obviously. The Canal as trade hub only #3 (or at least thats what my egyptian friends told me). Singapore based its economy as trade hub.

    Indonesia has none of their advantage. We had trade hub advantage back then when Suez Canal hadnt been rebuilt and singapore was nothing.

    Indonesia’s only strength (and weakness at the same time) is the population. We put all to that basket. its almost a ponzi scheme economy.

    Want to see tourism grow? Install a gov that is incompetent at macroeconomics and good at spending, then they will start to see the necessity of developing tourism.

  15. avatar sputjam says:

    I think hotel rates in indonesia are a bit stiff compared to some of their neighbours.
    There are no regional air connecting manado to other nearby tourist spots like kota kinabalu.
    Same with mentewei islands and lake toba.

    Indonesian govenrment more interested in preventing locals from going overseas in present economic conditon as there may be a sharp drop in arrivals due to financial uncertainties.

    The dutch prefer to holiday in the carribean islands of aruba etc. regional tourist, I think make a a huge portion of tourist arrival, particularly from malaysia and singapore, where there is extensive air link.

  16. avatar Lairedion says:

    Still there are signs conditions and perceptions are improving.

    Canada says Indonesia is an interesting place for investment

    BB, thanks for suggesting the preview option. Excellent idea.

  17. avatar Lairedion says:

    A rather interesting take on travel slogans for Asian nations…

    Accurate travel slogans for Asian nations

  18. avatar enigmatic says:

    One easy step: Improve the safety to travel within the country. This can be done by making sure that ferries don’t overload passengers and are sufficiently equipped with life vests. Only when safety standards have met the international yardsticks can tourists have peace of mind that they can travel here enjoy their holiday safely and return. All in one piece.

    Indonesia is definitely in no short supply of archaeological artefacts, natural scenery and excellent food. Honestly even in Singapore I still miss Indonesian fare. The problem with Indonesia not being to tap her potential as a tourist destination is mainly because tourists are not assured that they could enjoy themselves here without having to worry for their lives.

    Only when the safety issues are ironed out can Indonesia have any hope of faring well in the tourism sector in Southeast Asia. When safety is concerned, then the government can address the issue of visas more easily.

  19. avatar ET says:

    I believe a good travel slogan should reflect and summarize the feelings and impressions of the first-time traveler right after going home but before he had a chance to be pungli‘d or tipu‘d. In the case of Indonesia Lairedion’s ‘Intriguing Indonesia’ sums very well up my own impressions. ‘Indonesia Magical Mystery’ would also be fine if it wouldn’t smell of plagiarism. But the best one I believe still remains ‘Indonesia, Girdle of Emerald’.

  20. avatar Mike says:

    Indonesia definitely has an image problem and the first step would be to lobby western government’s like Australia to remove the travel warnings from their website.

    I think Indonesia could be promoted as the perfect place for “adventure travelers and tourists”.

    The government also seems to be doing little to protect some fantastic drawcards like the organgutans in North Sumatra.

  21. avatar Brother Mouzone says:

    IMHO, Indonesia should be highlighting what is genuinely unique about the place; its diversity… I mean, this place straddles the Wallace line; it’s basically thousands of islands spread across two continents… the variety of cultures, languages, foods, flora and fauna are the real unique selling points of the country.

    Something along the lines of;

    A thousand journeys. Indonesia.

  22. avatar timdog says:

    Brother Mouzone – the best one yet, genuinely top-notch:

    “Indonesia – A Thousand Journeys”. Absolutely perfect; anyone got the number for the tourism department?

    @enigmatic – while Indonesia certainly does need to sort out transport safety, I don’t think this has as much bearing on foreign tourism as you think (or indeed, much bearing at all). Look at Cambodia and Laos – countries with attrociously poor infrastructure – and see the tourists flooding in there. India, Nepal, Thailand, the Philipines, most of South America; none of these countries have exactly unblemished records when it comes to public transport; none of them seem to have a problem with their tourist industry.

  23. avatar Pena Budaya says:

    I like tourism challenge (and advertising) by Australian government, the best job in the world . I just feel like I have to see this island in the future after seeing the ad. BTW, an Indonesian female is one of candidates for this job. Well, the point is that Indonesia has to dare to do something different than other countries when promoting its tourism. Focus on certain area won’t harm either.

    Advertising is still important factor. Whenever I watch CNN or BBC channels, I see numerous tourism advertising on Malaysia, India, Turkey or Egypt but rarely Indonesia. That is already a minus in tourism effort. Perhaps Indonesia tourism board should work closely with travel tv channels like NG and Discovery or popular travel magazine to ensure that Indonesia’s tourism could be part of their programs.

    As a frequent traveller for long vacation, I can say that easy procedure to get visa is matter but not the most important thing. I usually like to visit countries those safe for foreigners, having great nature, heritage or offering something that sounds adventourous. For instance, who can resist visiting Peru and its Inca Trail or Tamang Heritage Trail in Nepal? They sound so mysterious, ancient yet close to nature. Perhaps Indonesia can do more interesting advertising and develop Baliem Valley to be much more accomodating for tourists Baliem Valley. Just an idea..

    Indonesia is an archipelago country, so why not as well developing a truly maritime tourism across the archipelago seriously so at least it will attract cruise ships or cruising vacation trip..

  24. avatar TheWrathOfGrapes says:

    A slogan should be catching and short, something like “Intriguing Indonesia”, similar like “Incredible India”. You can use this for years to come. Drop the dull “Visit 2008? nonsense. No-one will remember this.

    Not just pithy slogans. The timing must be right too. I cannot forget the unfortunate launch of HKTA’s “Hong Kong – takes your breath away” right smack in the middle of the SARS epidemic. Literally take your breath away with all those masks. They quietly shelved the promotion.

  25. avatar sputjam says:

    Thailand has the most tourist visiting it in south east asia due to international connection as it has the busiest international airport in the region. Changi is second busiest.
    If you encourage more international flights to land in indonesia, you get the benefit of more tourist arrivals. Presently, Jakarta is acting like a domestic hub with Changi the main international gateway.

    Plus charges at domestic hotels for tourist are in USD. Hence any currency depreciation does not have similar effect as in countries where local currencies are used for hotel payments.

  26. avatar Oigal says:

    If promotion is to be done then it should be done for quality tourism. We all have seen what cheap mass tourism has done to places like Kuta and Sanur in Bali. Melting pots of white blubber, yellow sheep and annoying locals.

    That would take brains instead of bribes..Look at the the genius who came up with the plan to charge an import tax of every visiting yacht that come into Indonesian Waters (you could claim it back when you leave..surre!).

    Of all tourists, the grotty yachtie would have to rank as one of the most desirable, normally older, more mature well past the lets drink to I throw up stage, they visit out of the way places and their money is channeled into the local community..low foot-print tourists..(literally). A no brainer…apparently yes..

  27. avatar Chris says:

    The latest season (#16) of “The Amazing Race” is still avoiding Indonesia (see here), preferring to visit Malaysia (again) and Singapore.

  28. avatar Oigal says:

    The latest season (#16) of “The Amazing Race” is still avoiding Indonesia (see here), preferring to visit Malaysia (again) and Singapore.

    You are surprised by that? Although it would be fun sending the contestants on a race to secure the permits for filming, extra baggage, assemblies of people plus ever popular “operational” fees and uang rokok.

  29. avatar Nina Suwarno says:

    Yes, Indonesia is always out of the loop in term of tourism, there must be something wrong of Indonesia. I think it’s not easy to find information on anything about Indonesia. It seems like the Indonesian are too busy with their internal affair and forgetting the other side of the world.

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