Much Ado About Nothing

Indonesian Tourism Minister Denies Calling for Transformation of Bali and Lake Toba into ‘Muslim Friendly’ Tourism Destinations

The National Press has been ablaze with controversy after reports surfaced that Indonesia’s newly-appointed Minister of Tourism and the Creative Economy Wishnuthama Kusubandio, and Deputy Minister Angela Tanoesoedibjo planned to transform the Lake Toba Region of North Sumatra and the Island of Bali into “Muslim Friendly Destinations.” Respectively, both of these areas have dominant Christian and Hindu local populations, many of who saw the publicized announcement as a call to action to oppose their cultural amalgamation by Indonesia’s majority Muslim population.

The widely reported declaration drew fire and ire on many fronts in North Sumatra and in Bali, who declared that while tourists visitors of any religion, including Islam, were welcome, there was little desire to change local practices - best described as “love all, serve all”  - in order to specifically attract more Muslim travelers. As many pointed out, restaurants serving halal menus already exist in every corner of the Indonesian archipelago.

In fact, the brouhaha over the statement allegedly made by the new leaders of National Tourism is now cited as a hoax, instigated to create religious and cultural divides between the various religious and cultural groups in Indonesia.

In other words, Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism flatly denies having ever making a call to make Lake Toba and Bali more “Muslim friendly.”

Statement issue by Indonesian Tourism and Creative Economy Minister, Wishnutama Kusbandio.

In connection with news in the mass media published under the title “Wishnutama and Angela to Magically Transform Lake Toba and Bali into Welcoming Destinations for Muslims” - the Minister of Tourism and Deputy Minister Angela Tanoesoedibjo have issued the following statement that has freely translated:

We herewith announce that we have never issued a proposal as published in the national media calling to magically transform Toba and Bali into “Muslim friendly” tourism destinations.

We also regret that the erroneous news on this matter has precipitated a polemic among tourism industry players and tourism workers in Indonesia.

The resulting perception caused by this erroneous report contrasts sharply with our views and shared commitment to respect the culture, local wisdom, and national diversity of the Indonesian nation.

For this reason, we apologize for any inconvenience caused by these reports and thank the media for helping to clarify this matter.

We also express our gratitude to all those who have shared their comments and reaffirm our view that tourism belongs to every echelon of the Indonesian nation.

Our tourism is built on the wisdom of the people and local culture in each destination, creating a strong force of attraction for visitors. The result In Indonesia is a unique form of hospitality and friendliness for tourists from various religious and cultural backgrounds.

We remain strongly convinced that culture, local wisdom, and Indonesia's richness of natural resources must be safeguarded, conserved, and managed well in order that Indonesian tourism will continue to attract tourist visitors and enhance public welfare.

Tourism is a universal activity. All tourism destinations and attractions in Indonesia remain open for all visitors without regard to their nationality or religious beliefs.

Our future focus is to develop tourist destinations in accordance with local cultural wisdom ensuring that our tourism industry is founded on firm cultural foundations.

We strongly uphold the belief that the great natural and cultural richness and diversity of our archipelago represent our greatest asset and is the capital to invest to continue to attract tourists to our many destinations.

We have always been proud and admired Bali as a role model of culture-based tourism that upholds the values of cooperation and tolerance reflecting harmony in diversity.

Similarly, Toba is a natural tourist destination rich in high cultural values flowing from the local population.

We hope that the current synergy and cooperation enjoyed by all tourism stakeholders will continue to be strengthened, permitting the advancement of tourism and the increasing welfare of the Indonesian public.

End of translation of the official statement

Recent post