With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia represent ONE OF THE BEST CHOICE at the time you have planning an itineraries or vacation trip. Tourism in Indonesia is an important component of the Indonesian economy as well as a significant source of its foreign exchange revenues. In 2008, the number of international tourists has reached over 6 million people who spent more than 7 billion US dollars.
Both nature and culture are major components of Indonesian tourism. The natural heritage can boast a unique combination of a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, the second longest shoreline in the world, and a tropical climate. The beaches in Bali, diving sites in Bunaken, and various national parks in Sumatra are just a few examples of popular scenic destinations. These natural attractions are complemented by a rich cultural heritage that reflects Indonesia’s dynamic history and ethnic diversity. One fact that exemplifies this richness is that over 700 languages are used across the archipelago. The ancient Prambanan and Borobudur temples, Toraja, Yogyakarta, Minangkabau, and of course Bali, with its many Hindu festivities, are some of the popular destinations for cultural tourism.
Tourism in Indonesia is currently overseen by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. International tourism campaigns have been focusing largely on its tropical destinations with white sand beaches, blue sky, and cultural attractions. Beach resorts and hotels have been developed in some popular tourist destinations, especially Bali island as the primary destination. At the same time, the integration of cultural affairs and tourism under the scope of the same ministry shows that cultural tourism is considered an integral part of Indonesia’s tourism industry, and conversely, that tourism is used to promote and preserve the cultural heritage.
As with most countries, domestic tourists are by far the largest market segment. The biggest movement of domestic tourists is during the annual Eid ul-Fitr, locally known as “lebaran”. During this period, which is a two-week holiday after the month of fasting during Ramadhan, many city-dwelling Moslem Indonesians visit relatives in their home towns. Intercity traffic is at its peak and often an additional surcharge is applied during this time.
Over the five years up to 2006, attention has been focused on generating more domestic tourism. Competition amongst budget airlines has increased the number of domestic air travellers throughout the country. Recently, the Ministry of Labour legislated to create long weekends by combining public holidays that fall close to weekends, except in the case of important religious holidays. During these long weekends, most hotels in popular destinations are fully booked.
Since 2000, on average, there have been five million foreign tourists each year, who spend an average of US$100 per day (see table). With an average visit duration of 9–12 days, Indonesia gains US$4.6 billion of foreign exchange income annually. This makes tourism Indonesia’s third most important non-oil–gas source of foreign revenue, after timber and textile products.
Three quarters of Indonesia’s visitors come from the Asia-Pacific region, with Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Japan and South Korea among the top five countries of origin. The United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Netherlands are the largest sources of European visitors. Although Dutch visitors are at least in part keen to explore the historical relationships, many European visitors are seeking the tropical weather at the beaches in Bali.
During the colonial era, tourism was regulated carefully by the government administration of the Dutch East Indies, with international tourists encouraged to travel in groups, and to visit the more significant ‘landmark’ destinations of Java, Bali and Sumatra. Much of the international tourism of the 1920s and 1930s was by international visitors on oceanic cruises. The 1930s did see a modest but significant influx of mainly European tourists and longer term stayers to Bali. Many came for the blossoming arts scene in the Ubud area, which was as much a two-way exchange between the Balinese and outsiders as it was an internal phenomenon.
Tourism more or less disappeared during World War II, and in the early years of the Sukarno era. National pride and identity in the late 1950s and early 1960s was incorporated into the monumentalism of Sukarno in Jakarta — and this included the development of international standard hotels. The political and economic instability of the mid-1960s saw tourism decline radically again. Bali, and in particular the small village of Kuta, was however, in the 1960s, an important stopover on the overland hippy trail between Australia and Europe, and a “secret” untouched surf spot. In the early to mid 1970s, high standard hotels and tourist facilities began to appear in Jakarta and Bali, and from this period to the end of the Suharto era, governmental manipulation of the tourism industry included an array of policies and developments to encourage increasing numbers of international tourists to both visit Indonesia and stay longer.
There were a number of years that were declared “Visit Indonesia Year” — each with different themes. In a number of cases, where international events interfered, some years in the “Visit Indonesia” decade were considerable disasters. Considerable cynicism on the part of some poor local communities in Java led to the appearance of graffiti on water tanks and abandoned buildings proclaiming “obyek wisata”, in reference to local government authorities’ enthusiasm to attract interest to locations with very limited interest to international tourists who tended to tread the well-worn path between the larger, and in some cases, over-promoted “tourism objects” as they were called. With the advent of the internet and the enthusiasm for promotional websites, tourism in the twenty first century has seen the style of street vendors in busy tourist locations of the past extend to website creators — cluttered, chaotic and of varying quality.
Indonesia has a well-preserved, natural ecosystem, such as rainforests that stretch over about 57% of Indonesia’s land (225 million acres) and about 2% of them are mangrove. One reason why the natural ecosystem in Indonesia is still well-preserved is because only 6,000 islands out of 17,000 are permanently inhabited. Forests on Sumatra and Java are examples of popular tourist destinations. Moreover, Indonesia has one of longest coastlines in the world, measuring 54,716 kilometres (33,999 mi), with a number of beaches and island resorts, such as those in southern Bali, Lombok, Bintan and Nias Island. However, most of the well-preserved beaches are those in more isolated and less developed areas, such as Karimunjawa, the Togian Islands, and the Banda Islands
With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia presents ample diving opportunities. Bunaken, at the northern tip of Sulawesi, claims to have seven times more genera of coral than Hawaii, and has more than 70% of all the known fish species of the Indo-Western Pacific. Moreover, there are over 3,500 species living in Indonesian waters, including sharks, dolphins, manta rays, turtles, morays, cuttlefish, octopus and scorpionfish, compared to 1,500 on the Great Barrier Reef and 600 in the Red Sea. Tulamben Bay in Bali boasts the wreck of the 120 metres (390 ft) U.S. Army commissioned transport vessel, the Liberty. Other popular dive sites on Bali are at Candidasa and Menjangan. Across the Badung Strait from Bali, there are several popular dive sites on Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. Lombok’s three Gilis (Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan) are popular as is Bangka. Some of the most famous diving sites in Indonesia are also the most difficult to reach, with places like Biak off the coast of Papua and the Alor Archipelago among the popular, more remote, destinations for divers.
Surfing is also a popular water activity in Indonesia and the sites are recognised as world class. The well-known spots are mostly located on the southern, Indian Ocean side of Indonesia, for example, the large oceanic surf breaks on southern Java. However, the north coast does not receive the same surf from the Java Sea. Surf breaks can be found all the way along Sumatra, down to Nusa Tenggara, including Aceh, Bali, Banten, Java, Lombok, the Mentawai Islands, and Sumbawa. On Bali, there are about 33 surf spots, from West Bali to East Bali including four on the offshore island of Nusa Lembongan. Sumatra is the second island with the most number of surf spots, with 18 altogether. The common time for surfing is around May to September with the trade winds blowing from east to south-east. From October to April, winds tend to come from the west to north-west, so the east coast breaks get the offshore winds.
Two well-known surf breaks in Indonesia are the G-Land in the Bay of Grajagan, East Java, and Lagundri Bay at the southern end of Nias island. G-Land was first identified in 1972, when a surfer saw the break from the window of a plane. Since 6 to 8 foot (Hawaiian scale) waves were discovered by surfers at Lagundri Bay in 1975, the island has become famous for surfing worldwide.
There are 50 national parks in Indonesia, of which six are World Heritage listed. The largest national parks in Sumatra are the 9,500-square-kilometre (3,700 sq mi) Gunung Leuser National Park, the 13,750-square-kilometre (5,310 sq mi) Kerinci Seblat National Park and the 3,568-square-kilometre (1,378 sq mi) Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, all three recognised as Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Other national parks on the list are Lorentz National Park in Papua, Komodo National Park in the Lesser Sunda Islands, and Ujung Kulon National Park in the west of Java.
To be noticed, different national parks offer different biodiversity, as the natural habitat in Indonesia is divided into two areas by the Wallace line. The Wallacea biogeographical distinction means the western part of Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan) have the same flora and fauna characteristics as the Asian continent, whilst the remaining eastern part of Indonesia has similarity with the Australian continent.
Many native species such as Sumatran elephants, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros and Orangutans are listed as endangered or critically endangered, and the remaining populations are found in national parks and other conservation areas. Orangutans can be visited in the Bukit Lawang conservation area. The world’s largest flower, rafflesia arnoldi, and the tallest flower, titan arum, can be found in Sumatra.
The east side of the Wallacea line offers the most remarkable, rarest, and exotic animals on earth. Birds of Paradise, locally known as cenderawaish, are plumed birds that can be found among other fauna in Papua New Guinea. The largest bird in Papua is the flightless cassowary. One species of lizard, the Komodo dragon can easily be found on Komodo, located in the Nusa Tenggara lesser islands region. Besides Komodo island, this endangered species can also be found on the islands of Rintja, Padar and Flores
Hiking and camping in the mountains are popular adventure activities. Some mountains contain ridge rivers, offering rafting activity. Though volcanic mountains can be dangerous, they have become major tourist destinations. Popular active volcanoes are the 2,329-metre (7,641 ft) high Mount Bromo in the East Java province with its little desert, the upturned boat shaped Tangkuban Perahu on the outskirts of Bandung, the most active volcano in Java, Mount Merapi and the legendary Krakatau with its new caldera known as anak krakatau (the child of Krakatau). Puncak Jaya in the Lorentz National Park, the highest mountain in Indonesia and the only mountain with ice caps, offers the opportunity of rock climbing. In Sumatra, there are the remains of a supervolcano eruption that have created the landscape of Lake Toba close to Medan in North Sumatra.
Indonesia consists of at least 300 ethnic groups, spread over a 1.8 million km² area of 6,000 inhabited islands. This creates a cultural diversity, further compounded by Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and European colonialist influences.
From the 3rd century until the 13th century, Hinduism and Buddhism shaped the culture of Indonesia. The best-preserved Buddhist shrine, which was built during the Sailendra dynasty in the 8th century, is Borobudur temple in Central Java. A few kilometers to the southeast is the Prambanan complex, a Hindu temple built during the second Mataram dynasty. Both the Borobudur and the Prambanan temple compounds have been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1991. In Bali, where most Hindus live, cultural festivals are major attractions to foreign tourists.
Islam has also contributed greatly to the cultural society in Indonesia. As of 2006, about 88% of Indonesians are Moslem. Islamic culture is prominent in Sumatra, and a few of the remaining sultanate palaces can be seen in Medan and Pekanbaru.
Despite foreign influences, a diverse array of indigenous traditional cultures is still evident in Indonesia. The indigenous ethnic group of Toraja in South Sulawesi, which still has strong animistic beliefs, offers a unique cultural tradition, especially during funeral rituals. The Minangkabau ethic group retain a unique matrilineal culture, despite being devoted Moslems. Other indigenous ethnic groups include the Asmat and Dani in Papua, the Dayak in Kalimantan and the Mentawai in Sumatra, where traditional rituals are still observed.
A discussion of cultural tourism is not complete without a mention of Yogyakarta, a special province in Indonesia known as centre of classical Javanese fine art and culture. The rise and fall of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic kingdoms in Central Java has transformed Yogyakarta into a melting pot of Indonesian culture.
Metropolitan tourism activities are shopping, sightseeing in big cities, and enjoying modern amusement parks. The nation’s capital, Jakarta, offers many places for shopping. Mal Kelapa Gading (the biggest one with 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi), Plaza Senayan, Senayan City, Grand Indonesia, EX, and Plaza Indonesia are some of the shopping malls in the city. Another popular tourist activity is golfing, a favorite sport among the upper class Indonesians and foreigners. Some notable golf courses in Jakarta are the Cengkareng Golf Club, located in the airport complex, and Pondok Indah Golf and Country Club. Bali has many shopping centers, for instance, the Kuta shopping center and the Galeria Nusa Dua. Nightlife of Indonesia is also popular among foreigners, especially in the big cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Manado, Denpasar and Medan
Food In Indonesia
The variety of cultures in Indonesia is reflected in the wide range of foods in the nation. Since the 15th century, many European traders have visited the archipelago to buy different kinds of spices, including black pepper and mace. In modern times, many cultures and countries have influenced the cuisine of Indonesia, such as the Western and Asian cultures. Many claim that this diversity has resulted in one of the most distinctive cuisines in the world.
The main principle of almost all Indonesian food is halal. Rice is Indonesia’s most important staple food. Most Indonesians eat rice twice a day, at lunch and dinner. The rice is usually served with a side dish, such as chicken, meats and vegetables. Although the meals are generally simple, the plentiful use of various roots, spices, grasses, and leaves adds flavour to most dishes. An Indonesian meal will often be accompanied by various condiments at the table, including sambal and kecap. Other main meals, such as potato, noodles, soybeans and wheat are common. The most common method for preparing food is frying, though grilling, simmering, steaming and stewing are also used. Indonesian cuisine is also influenced by Western culture. The most obvious example is the presence of fast food companies in Indonesia, such as McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut. To popularise the food of Indonesia, food related events were created, such as a food festival called “Enak-Enak”, which ran from August 15 to August 31, 2006.
INTERNATIONAL TOURIST ARRIVALS
Each of the larger Indonesian islands have at least one international airport. The biggest airport in Indonesia, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, is located in Tangerang Regency, Banten. There are five more international airports on Java, Adisumarmo International Airport in Solo, Central Java, Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Achmad Yani International Airport in Semarang, Central Java, Husein Sastranegara International Airport in Bandung, West Java and Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta. On Kalimantan, there is one international airport and there are two on Sumatra. Bali, which is part of the Nusa Tenggara Islands, has the Ngurah Rai International Airport.
Tourists from Brunei, Chile, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam can enter Indonesia without a visa. Citizens of these countries will be issued on arrival a permit for a 30 day stay upon presentation of a valid passport with at least six months to run. This stay permit cannot be extended or converted to another type of visa.
On February 1, 2004, Indonesia introduced unpopular and tighter tourist visa regulations. Although tourist visas were formerly free and valid for 60 days, visitors from certain countries must now purchase one of two visas on arrival: a US$15 visa valid for 10 days or a US$25 visa valid for 30 days. This was heavily protested by the tourist industry, which pointed out that this cost adds up for families and 30 days is a very limited time to travel in Indonesia with a number of remote and hard to reach locations. The countries now subject to these tighter regulations include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. On July 14, 2004, the Indonesian tourism ministry granted permission for more countries to be included on the VOA list, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Egypt, Austria, Ireland, Qatar and Luxembourg. The visa on arrival cannot be extended or converted into any other kind of visa. The visa holder also has to leave the country on the 30th day of the stay.
Visit Indonesia Year 2008
The Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, declared 2008 as a Visit Indonesia Year. Visit Indonesia Year 2008 was officially launched on 26 December 2007. The figure of Visit Indonesia Year 2008 branding took the concept of Garuda Pancasila as the Indonesian way of life. The 5 components of pancasila were represented by 5 different colored lines and symbolized the Indonesian Unity in Diversity. The targeted number was 7 million. Visit Indonesia Year 2008 was also commemorating 100 years of Indonesia’s national awakening in 1908.
Guide books and travel accounts with details of the country and people have had a long history – some books from the 1800s and early 1900s being classics with description of places that were perceived as things to see. Both private authors and government publications (such as the 1920s Come to Java books produced in Batavia by the government tourist bureau of the time) have been made each decade through to the present. There were restrictions to tourism during World War II and the mid to late 1960s – other than those two periods – travel accounts and guide books have been produced regularly. James Rush’s and Adrian Vickers’ texts mentioned below are excellent introductions to the range of writing that has been created.
The most popular Guide book on Indonesia in English in the 1980s was Bill Dalton’s Indonesia Handbook, while from the 1990s onward, the Lonely Planet’s edition Indonesia (Guidebook) has gone to its eighth edition in 2007. Many other guide books have also been produced in English and other languages. Additionally, major international newspapers regularly have travel sections and stories about Indonesia.