Indonesia attracted a record number of foreign tourists last year. It hopes to top those results in 2019.
Foreign tourist arrivals reached 15.8 million in 2018, 13 percent more than a year earlier. Malaysian and Chinese tourists are fueling the surge of international visitors.
More than 2.5 million Malaysians visited the archipelago in 2018, while 2.14 million came from China. Despite the growth, the country missed its goal to draw 17 million visitors. Multiple earthquakes and tsunamis struck the archipelago, which disrupted flights and infrastructure in several tourist areas, including Lombok and Sulawesi.
Indonesia posted its busiest tourism month in history in July with 1,540,549 arrivals.
Tourism in Indonesia is an important component of the economy as well as a significant source of its foreign exchange revenues. Indonesia was ranked at 20th in the world tourist Industry in 2017, also ranked as the ninth-fastest growing tourist sector in the world, the third-fastest growing in Asia and the fastest-growing in Southeast Asia. The tourism sector ranked as the 4th largest among goods and services export sectors.
The number of foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia has grown steadily since 2007. Its tourism growth is far higher than Malaysia, which grew by only 4 percent, Singapore at 5.8 percent and Thailand at 8.7 percent. Despite the solid growth, Indonesia still trails the tourism industry in Malaysia and Singapore, but it is closing the gap. Tourism in Vietnam also is becoming more competitive.
Bali remains Indonesia’s top destination. The Borobudur temple in Central Java is the nation’s top attraction outside of Bali. The emerging resort island of Lombok also is attracting more tourists every year. Unfortunately, Lombok is still recovering from a strong earthquake that hit the island and the outer Gili islands in 2018. Wakatobi and Lake Toba also are gaining momentum among foreign and domestic tourists.
Currently, Indonesia’s tourism sector accounts for approximately four percent of the total economy. Nearly nine percent of Indonesia’s total national workforce is employed in the tourism sector.
Indonesia is aggressively pushing tourism as a top source for foreign exchange for a government that’s struggling to contain a widening current-account deficit. The government is targeting 20 million foreign tourists this year and earnings of about $20 billion. According to Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, tourism should become the nation’s top industry in terms of foreign exchange earnings.
In 2019, Indonesia hopes to attract 20 million tourists. To achieve this target, the government will focus on improving Indonesia’s infrastructure (including ICT infrastructure), accessibility, health & hygiene as well as enhancing online promotional campaigns abroad.
Indonesia also is developing what it calls “Ten New Balis,” which promotes priority destinations, including Toba Lake (North Sumatra), Borobudur (Central Java), Mandalika (Flores), and Labuan Bajo (Flores). The Indonesian government wants to replicate Bali’s tourism success (which attracted more than six million foreign visitors in 2018).
In the years ahead halal tourism is expected to grow markedly, and Indonesia is positioned to capitalize on that tourism growth.