Ni Komang Erviani , Contributor , The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Mon, 12/15/2008 10:40 AM | Bali
The tourism industry in Bali has criticized the provincial administration’s decision to cut the tourism promotion fund in a bid to free up more money for health and poverty eradication programs.
Head of the Balinese Tourism Agency I Gede Nurjaya said Saturday the administration had allocated Rp 4 billion, Rp 1 billion less than this year, to the tourism budget for 2009.
Aloysius Purwa, chairman of the Balinese branch of the Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA), said the decision was unwise.
He argued that in the face of a crisis the administration should increase the tourism promotion budget, not reduce it.
“Promotions are a necessity regardless of the given economic conditions. In a time of financial crisis, we must strengthen promotional efforts, not weaken them,” he said.
Purwa feared the island’s tourism industry could suffer a significant blow in 2009 due to the budget cut.
“We have already experienced the first signs of the crisis in the tourism sector, with cancellations and low reservation levels,” he said.
Promotions could play a major role sustaining the tourism industry in 2009, which almost undoubtedly will experience a downturn.
Nurjana, however, said Bali’s tourism community had to see the wider picture.
“Given the ongoing global financial crisis right now, the main priorities of the administration are health services and poverty eradication,” he said.
The agency is responsible for the distribution and supervision of the tourism promotion fund and an additional Rp 2 billion in funding for daily operations.
Despite the budget cut, Nurjaya was still optimistic about the future for the Balinese tourism industry. He said the province would meet its 2009 target of bringing in 2.1 million foreign visitors.
“The budget cut will not reduce our activities. We will intensify tourism efforts by inviting foreign officials, journalists and tour operators to Bali,” he said.
He said in organizing events, his office would cooperate with airline companies.
“Through sponsorship, we will have less costs to shoulder.”
He said his agency would cope with the crisis and the budget cut by shifting its focus to markets in neighboring countries, especially Singapore.
“We will be more selective in organizing promotional campaigns in foreign countries. We will focus on the Asian countries,” he said.
The global crisis has pushed the price of airline tickets upward, making travel to Bali considerably more expensive for European and American tourists.
The agency aimed to intensify promotional campaigns at countries whose contribution was historically significant, such as Australia, Japan, China and India.
The Ministry of Tourism and Culture’s Director of Overseas Promotion I Gde Pitana said the ministry would primarily target countries in South-East Asia for 2009.
The country’s tourism promotion fund for 2009, Pitana said, would be Rp 135 billion.
“Singapore is the most promising market since there are around 600,000 expatriates and three million Malaysians living there.”
By November 2008, 1.75 million foreigners had visited Bali. With the 2008 target at 1.9 millions, Nurjaya was optimistic that figure would be met.