Building New Tourism
The World Tourism Organization marked 2020 as the worst year in the history of tourism.
The World Tourism Organization marked 2020 as the worst year in the history of tourism. Globally, the arrival of international tourists nosedived by 74 percent, or approximately 1 billion less than the number of international tourists in 2019, due to travel restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, following numerous adversities, the tourist sector is projected to improve and become more sustainable in the future.
The collapse of international travel last year incurred an estimated loss of US$1.3 trillion in export revenue. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), that figure is more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis.
The Asia-Pacific region experienced a decrease of 84 percent, or approximately 300 million international tourist arrivals in 2020. The Asia Pacific suffered from the largest decrease in international tourists compared to other regions in the world, such as Africa and the Middle East, which experienced a decrease of 75 percent, Europe at 70 percent and America at 69 percent.
Also read: Domestic Tourists Become Locomotive
In Indonesia, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data, the number of international tourists visiting the country in 2020 only stood at 4.02 million, a decrease of 75.03 percent from the number of international visits in 2019, which reached 16.1 million.
The impact of the pandemic on the tourism and transportation sectors is also evident in the fall of occupancy rates at star-rated hotel rooms as well as the number of passengers in air, land and sea transportation.
Over the past year, not only did the transportation sector contract 15.04 percent but the accommodation and beverage sector suffered negative growth of 10.22 percent. In Indonesia, the two sectors are the most affected by the pandemic. Nonetheless, while it has destroyed tourism, the pandemic has also brought new opportunities to develop the tourist sector.
The pandemic provides an opportunity to reformulate the development of national tourism. According to 2000-2004 tourism minister I Gede Ardika, the tourist sector should not be interpreted solely in terms of economy but also in its relation to the environmental, social, cultural, political, defense and security aspects. "All this time we have mainly focused on the aspect of quantity, now we have to look at the aspect of quality," said Ardika during a book discussion event held by Kompas Book Publisher and Kompas daily mid last year.
The government and business actors must reconsider their actions and cease implementing exploitative tourism management that only benefits certain parties. Indonesia Tourism Intellectuals Association chairman Azril Azahari predicted that local cultures that are well-managed according to good standards of cleanliness, safety and comfort would be in great demand. This includes increasing demands for learning batik in Solo or Pekalongan and learning to kecak dance in Bali.
The Covid-19 pandemic expedites the birth of the new tourism era. While it first suffered from a collapse due to the economic impact of the pandemic, the tourist sector is predicted to be of higher quality and sustainability in the future. “People don\'t want to travel to a certain place just to passively watch the local culture. They want to share and be part of it. Tourism no longer aims solely to bring pleasure, but also to bring tranquility,” said Azril.
People don\'t want to travel to a certain place just to passively watch the local culture. They want to share and be part of it.
The future trend would be developing a tourist sector that is more socially attentive. In this regard, the local communities will be empowered by the tourist sector to become active economic actors, instead of merely being spectators. This is likely to occur considering the changing behavior of tourists, who are now looking for special and unique experiences.
The tourist sector is also predicted to be greener in the future; it will no longer be exploitative and laden with massive development projects which damage the environment. Instead, the sector would embed tourism in the natural environment.
Also read: Borobudur Blooming in the Autumn
Habits developed during the pandemic will shape the new face of tourism. Tourism is changing to be more segmented and in line with the specific interests of the tourists, who would travel in small and personal groups. In this way, the tourism sector would be able to take better advantage of developments in science and technology.
However, Indonesia has yet to have a clear direction regarding post-pandemic tourism. The government is still spending trillions of rupiah in the State Budget (APBN) to build infrastructures and super-priority areas which do not necessarily bring positive impacts on the local welfare.
According to Azril, it is a grave mistake to define tourist destinations as merely a physical place, instead of a space which offers new perspectives for visitors. Another mistake is to define tourist attractions as merely public shows or spectacle, instead of an elaborate performance which underlines the uniqueness and authenticity of local culture.
"It comes as no surprise that our tourist sector is still entrenched with the physical development of world-class destinations, instead of building the uniqueness of Indonesia. Many other countries have these world-class destinations," said Azril.
Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) secretary-general Maulana Yusran said the most important thing right now was to survive. “We have yet to be able to imagine how the tourism sector will develop this year. There is no guarantee that we can survive this year, let alone develop,” said Maulana.
As long as the pandemic remains uncontrolled, the tourist sector will still find major difficulties to recover. Public policies to curb the transmissions of Covid-19 will contradict any effort to push the tourist sector. According to Maulana, an improvement could be made only if the government is committed to support and restore the tourist sector.
The fastest way to revive the sector is by encouraging people’s mobility. However, this would not be in line with the current condition. Thus, the government’s focus should be providing a social safety net, direct cash assistance and stimulus for business actors.
A survey by the UNWTO found diverse prospects in 2021. Almost half of survey respondents (45 percent) predicted a better prospect vis-a-vis last year, 25 percent of respondents expected a similar prospect and 30 percent of the respondents projected an even worse prospect than last year.
The majority of survey respondents believed that the tourism sector would not return to what it had been before the pandemic, at least until 2023. 43 percent of respondents pinned their hope on the year 2023, while 41 percent of respondents expected recovery to take place in 2024 or after.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said the government’s focus this year would be preventing a permanent collapse of business actors in the tourism and creative economy sector.
There are 34 million people who depend on the tourism and creative economy sector. Meanwhile, 2.6 million jobs have been affected by the pandemic. "This pandemic has directly disrupted the cash flow of individuals working in the tourism and creative economy sector. The government’s emergency response program is to save them,” said Sandiaga in an interview with Kompas in mid-February 2021.
In 2021, the government proposed a budget of Rp 9.4 trillion for the tourism sector. In line with President Joko Widodo’s order, the main focus of the government this year is to develop five super-priority tourist destinations in Toba Lake (North Sumatera), Borobudur (Central Java), Mandalika (West Nusa Tenggara), Likupang (North Sulawesi) and Labuan bajo (East Nusa Tenggara). Other regions that are also targeted to be prioritized tourist destinations are Wakatobi, Raja Ampat, Bangka Belitung, Bromo-Tengger-Semeru and Morotai.
Regarding the future direction of the tourist sector, Sandiaga said the pandemic was a turning point that would change tourism for the better. Sustainable tourism will be in demand. Now, stakeholders must determine how the new face of national tourism will look.
This article was translated by Astria Z. Nabila.