Friday, 15 January 2010

Letters: RI fails to protect tourism assets

Fri, 01/15/2010 | Reader's Forum The Jakarta Post

I refer to an article titled “Review 2009: RI’s tourism potential remains untapped,” (The Jakarta Post, Jan. 4, p. 17). I think no amount of glitzy marketing of Indonesian attractions is going to built international tourism when the very attractions are being incrementally destroyed or, at the very least, mismanaged.

My experience throughout Indonesia is that, with a few notable exceptions, the combination of corruption and inept government agencies at all levels results in incremental destruction of the very attractions and experiences that could be the making of a great tourism industry.

Like any major asset, unless it is effectively protected and managed, it will degrade and disappear.

This is clearly evident in the national park system where illegal logging, encroachment and all manner of inappropriate, low-standard development is allowed and prevents the parks being the centerpieces of Indonesian tourism that they should be.

Some of the keys are likely be minimal direct government role in protection and management, involvement of independent (foreign) guidance, income generation flowing directly back to protection and management (instead of being siphoned off by all and sundry corrupt government officials), effective enforcement of protection (NGOs have proven effective in some cases, private enterprise always).

Better protection of Indonesia’s tourism assets is one of many good reasons to move the national park system out of the forestry ministry and its conflicts of interest into a separate semi-autonomous conservation agency with a board of management which includes independent people with international standing. Transparency and accountability would, of course, be essential.

With good protection and land management, law enforcement and a good measure of private and NGO partnership, they have the foundations of a great tourism industry. Add to that their great marketing campaigns and success is almost guaranteed. Indonesia could do the same or better, but the government has to learn its proper role — to support and facilitate, not try to run, control and parasitize its tourism assets and industry.

Government needs to learn from the successes in nature-based tourism, not just from Malaysia but also from the relative successes in Indonesia (e.g. Bunaken in Sulawesi; Rajah Empat in West Papua; Komodo).

Without fundamental changes in the protection and management of natural assets, Indonesia’s nature-based tourism has little future; no amount of marketing will change that.