Yogyakarta Optimistic About Tourism Future, Jakarta Post, 07/14/07
Source: Jakarta Post
A crowd goes wild over a centerpiece of a traditional celebration held by Yogyakarta Palace, one of the major tourist destinations in the city. The Yogyakarta tourism community remains upbeat about industry prospects this year, despite a recent travel warning and ban on Indonesian airlines. JP/Tarko Sudiarno
The Yogyakarta tourism community has expressed optimism for improvement in the industry, despite various issues considered damaging, ranging from terrorism, natural disasters, aviation security and political ones.
The most recent issues are the Australian travel warning against travel to Indonesia, and the European Union's ban on Indonesian carriers.
"We'd better not to overreact to such things. What is more important is that we keep showing to the rest of the world that our country is an attractive, safe and comfortable place to visit," said the head of the Yogyakarta Provincial Tourism Body (Baparda), Tazbir.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post on Thursday, Tazbir said that the Australian travel warning and the EU ban had not yet shown a significant impact on the city's tourism industry.
Chairman of the Yogyakarta branch of the Association of Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants (PHRI) Istidjab Danunegoro concurred, saying that its members had not reported any cancellations made in response to the travel warning or the ban.
"If there should be cancellations, I am sure the figure would not be significant," Istidjab told the Post.
Public relations officer Rahayu Diah Sadmawati of the five-star Melia Purosani Hotel also agreed, saying that the hotel had received only two to three cancellations from European guests since the ban.
"They were individual travelers who made their reservations through the Internet," said Diah, adding that no tour groups had canceled thus far.
The fact that Yogyakarta can also be reached overland, according to Istidjab, also accounts for the insignificant figure of visit cancellation from foreign tourists, especially from European countries.
Besides, Istidjab said, for the last few years Yogyakarta tourism had been dependent mostly on domestic tourists, following a series terrorism and health issues, such as the Bali bombings, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and bird flu.
"Some 95 percent of tourists we have are domestic. So only five percent are foreign tourists," he said.
Yogyakarta has experienced a serious drop in the number of foreign tourists due to such issues damaging to the industry.
The figure, however, has seen a steady increase from almost no visitors following the 2002 Bali bombing to some 120,000 in 2006.
The same year, some two million domestic tourists visited Yogyakarta, although this figure is about 40 percent of the "golden years" -- preceding the downfall of then president Soeharto in 1998.
The devastating May 2006 earthquake had almost paralyzed the tourism industry in the city, as many facilities and sites including hotels, restaurants, handicraft centers, and even Yogyakarta Palace and Prambanan Temple, were damaged by the natural disaster.
The same period saw the eruption of Mount Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes. Although some may consider a volcanic eruption as something of a rare tourist attraction, many others see it as an event to avoid.
"The image of Yogyakarta as a tourist destination was completely damaged at that time, causing many cancellations," Tazbir recalled.
Realizing the possibility of greater losses, the Yogyakarta tourism community, in cooperation with concerned institutions at the local government, created a series of programs to revive tourism in the region.
Various national and international events, including conventions and exhibitions involving a wide range of participants and stakeholders, were held in Yogyakarta in a bid to convince both domestic and foreign tourists that the city was still as attractive and tourist-friendly as before, perhaps even more so.
At the same time, industry members tackled the task of restoring and reconstructing facilities damaged by the quake. As of now, only two of about 35 star-rated hotels -- with a total of nearly 3,000 rooms -- have reopened in the city.
"We are even to have another five-star hotel operating here on Jl. Magelang, offering some 140 rooms," Tazbir added.
according to Istidjab, to improve accommodations in the city while helping handicraft cottage industries revive fully, PHRI-Yogyakarta, in cooperation with local governments, have set up mini "souvenir shops" in each room at the city's star-rated hotels.
"We have just started the program very recently," he said.
Tazbir added that the local government was considering a proposal by a foreign airline company to provide direct routes linking Yogyakarta with Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Singapore by the end of this year.
"This, hopefully, will bring back the status of Yogyakarta Adi Soetjipto as an international airport," he said, adding that flag carrier Garuda Airlines had stopped both routes due to feasibility.
Tazbir also said that, as a tourist destination, Yogyakarta had everything to offer, including rare attractions and religious tours covering the four major religions of the world: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.
For Muslim tourists, for example, Yogyakarta has a number of ancient mosques, while Christian tourists may be interested in the old Ganjuran church in Bantul and Sendangsono Cave in Kulonprogo. For Buddhists and Hindus, are the ancient temples of Prambanan and Borobudur.
"Although geographically Borobudur is in Central Java, it is more accessible from Yogyakarta," said Tazbir.
He also pointed out that Yogyakarta was among the destinations listed in the Track of Civilizations program, which was recently developed by five Asian countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.