Ex-Tourism Minister Maps Road to Recovery

Former Indonesian Minister of Culture and Tourism from 2000-2004, I Gede Ardhika, participated in an online seminar conducted by the Association of Inbound Tourism Operators (IINTOA) on Friday, 17 July 2020.

I Gede Ardhika

Indonesian Tourism News (ITN) covered the seminar where the Bali-born former Minister was questioned on the state of Indonesian tourism following the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Outlining the road ahead for tourism’s recovery, Ardhika said: “What’s important now is the implementation of health protocols. This begins with yourself, your family, company, and your immediate circle.This must be done until the public rigorously undertakes health protocols. It is at this point that destinations can be determined whether or not if they are ready to welcome tourists and regain their trust. It’s a step-by-step process for each tourism destination.”

Once health protocols are effectively operating, then create a priority list of which destinations you want to reopen first, Ardhika added.

The former Minister said: “Determine 1, 2, or 3 destinations designated as ‘green zones.’ Prepare the public in these destinations and make them thoroughly ready to undertake all the health protocols. Prepare the health protocols’ infrastructure and superstructures. This will make it easier to isolate issues when incidents occur in specific destinations, allowing a quick, direct response.”

Gede Ardhika also urged caution in the issuance of COVID-19 “negative” certificates and labels. Before certificates and labels are produced, we must carefully look at the long-term implications. Labeling procedures must be wisely applied and not be discriminatory in how they are applied. Failure to have well-administered procedures in place will later become a problem.

“We have the experience from the time when hepatitis-free certificates were required. Therefore COVID-19 “negative” certificates and labeling must be done very carefully. Don’t let this become a boomerang on those issuing the certificates,” warned Ardhika.

Prioritized tourism destinations will be opened first and targeted for prioritized promotion. In deciding which destinations are to open first, consideration will be given to which destinations have markets ready to travel to these places.

Continuing, Ardhika said: “Promotion means giving correct information. Destination promotion can take many forms. Those destinations that are not completely ready to undertake all the health protocols should communicate what is being done and the status of steps underways and those that are not yet possible to achieve. Truthfulness forms a part of any promotion.”

The popular and well-respected former Minister of Tourism urged Indonesia to adopt a new perspective on National Tourism during the current and the coming post-pandemic period. He called for tourism not to be overly dependent on the government. Instead, all elements must do what is within their power to improve the situation and improve their local surroundings. Ardhika said that in confronting COVID-19, responsibilities must be shared between members of the tourism industry, the government, the general public, and also tourist visitors. These shared responsibilities encompass tourist attractions, accommodation, transportation, and the management of each destination as a whole. 

Tourism operators, said the former Minister, must lead initiatives undertaken by the tourism industry. What’s more, he said the private sector initiatives should precede those taken by the government.

Every Generation has the Opportunity to Develop Tourism.

Responding to a questioner who asked what the millennial Generation wishing to become involved in Indonesia’s tourism, must do, Gede Ardhika answered that tourism and travel is a human right. Technology and pandemics will not eliminate the public’s desire to travel. He said that travel allows people to leave their homes, study new values, and improve the quality of life. Adding: “Every Generation has the opportunity to develop tourism. The presence of technology does not need to become an obstacle. What’s most important is that we develop a form of tourism that is responsible and sustainable.”

In an era increasingly dependent on technology, Ardhika urged that tourism players and the government sit down together. Reminding that laws and regulations have a macro effect, he called on the private sector to formulate proposals and propose solutions for consideration by the Government.

Every Generation has the opportunity to develop tourism. The presence of technology does not need to become an obstacle. What’s most important is that we develop a form of tourism that is responsible and sustainable.

Former Indonesian Culture & Tourism Minister, I Gede Ardhika

To make his point, Ardhika alluded to financial technology. Ardhika said that payment systems would continue to evolve rapidly to keep pace with technological changes. This will include digital means of payment and contactless/touchless means of performing financial transactions. These new technologies can contribute significantly to a country’s foreign exchange. The tourism industry needs to understand these developments and create policies to seize opportunities as they arise.

Ardhika also underlined the importance of cooperation between the government and the private sector to acquire the data needed to analyze and manage national tourism. He said regional autonomy should not become an obstacle to collecting much-needed tourism data from every destination.

In closing, Ardhika said creativity is needed to create tourism products. The pandemic period can be used to trial these products and determine their respective reliability. The test-trials of new products can be performed with domestic tourists and expatriates living in Indonesia, before being marketed to a global marketplace.