PPIA Victoria’s special lecture with The Honourable Mr Edwin Hidayat Abdullah, Indonesian Deputy of Energy, Logistics, Metro and Tourism from the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises, emphasised that diversity is resilience on Friday night.

The mostly Indonesian crowd attentively listened to the 45-minute English language lecture on the range of tourism operations that exist in Indonesia.

Post-event photo opportunities with Mr. Edwin Hidayat Abdullah. Photo credit: PPIA Victoria

The ‘10 new Balis’ project has already been discussed from many perspectives. This time, it was a focus on economics, specifically its role in one in ten world jobs; its projected 14% share of Indonesian GDP; its function in motivating the Indonesian infrastructure boom; and much more. A focus beyond Bali aims to shift 40% of all Indonesia tourist arrivals across Indonesia. This supports Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s Nawacita (‘National Vision’) and develops a robust economy.

Mr Abdullah cogently explained how easy it is to capitalise on the natural beauty of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands through experience tourism. He discussed the diverse work being done to spread word of the wonderful times that can be had on beaches, in resorts, with locals and without cost.

In response to the role of technology to supercharge these efforts, the Ministry has launched an app called Xplorin that creates connections between all the different opportunities already available.

While natural beauty is the draw, it can also be a danger. Recent volcanic eruptions emphasise how Indonesia is at risk of billions of rupiah lost through travel cancelations and empty hotels if this project fails. Strength in diversity is emphasised by the long list of tourism modes being implemented across the archipelago by the Ministry. There will be environmental, luxury, cultural and homestay options, with many more besides.

This is drawing major chains like Paramount to establish themselves in new frontiers like Mandalika. This success champions the Ministry’s track record in clearing road blocks to benefit everyone.

All the projects emphasise the importance of addressing ‘government, business and local interest’. That order seems to suggest the way things have been done in Indonesia for a long time, but there is also the feeling of innovation. The homestay programs and cultural tourism involve the local population without creating over-dependence. My own experience in remote communities makes it clear that this is integral to Indonesia’s long-term success.

Question time focused primarily on two aspects – environment and community. Abdullah Mansoer, President Director of Indonesia Tourism Development Centre, Edi Setiono, Director of Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur and Prambanan, and Haryo Yunianto, Director of Patra Jasa, joined Mr Abdullah onstage. The four individuals answered a variety of questions from the enthusiastic student crowd.

Evelynd from Monash University asked about the intersection between reducing floating plastic and tourism. She suggested that environmental issue is one block to increased tourism. Mr Mansoer responded with a focus on the work being done to involve Bali locals in beach clean-up work. In response to a push to go beyond, there was acknowledgment that these strategies could be more broadly implemented with the right support.

Diski Naim from the Indonesia Diaspora Network asked about the role his members can have to promote Indonesian tourism. He made the point that they uniquely understand both why Indonesia is amazing and how Australians would best understand that. I added the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association would be able to support such an effort even further due to their position in the bilateral relationship.

All the officials present agreed that something must be organised and officially supported to make the most of this impressive people power. This notion provided in-principle support to Mr Naim’s idea that community goes beyond experience branding when getting Indonesia into local minds.

All questions emphasised the importance of a diverse and decentralised system. On the night, Bhineka Ika Tunggul (‘Strength in Diversity’, Indonesia’s national motto) was indeed linked to a robust and capable Indonesia for the future of tourism.