In the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, which “measures the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the Travel & Tourism sector, which in turn, contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country,” Indonesia jumped from rank 70th in 2013 to 50th in 2015, an impressive improvement. This jump was caused by Indonesia’s rapidly growing number of foreign visitor arrivals, national prioritization of the tourism industry and investment in infrastructure (for example the mobile phone network now covers most areas of the country, while air transport infrastructure has been expanded). The report states that the competitive advantages of Indonesia are price competitiveness, rich natural resources (biodiversity), and the presence of several heritage sites.
The lack of adequate infrastructure in Indonesia is a persistent problem, not only because its raises logistics costs steeply thus making the investment climate less attractive but also because it limits the smoothness of traveling for tourists. Infrastructure on Bali is great and acceptable in Jakarta (except for the grave traffic congestion) but outside Bali and Jakarta most of the country’s infrastructure is inadequate, particularly in the eastern part of Indonesia where there is a shortage of airports, ports, roads and hotels. The lack of inter and intra island connectivity means that a number of Indonesian regions that contain huge tourist potential cannot be reached easily.
Besides infrastructure, education also forms an obstacle. Although on the island of Bali as well as in the luxury hotels of Jakarta most native people working in the tourism sector are pretty fluent in English (and sometimes even other non-Indonesian languages), in the more remote areas of Indonesia natives have difficulty to communicate with tourists. Therefore, a focus on the study of English would help to overcome this situation. This language barrier has been reason for a portion of Singaporeans to choose Malaysia as their holiday destination instead of Indonesia. Most foreign visitors that enter Indonesia come from Singapore, followed by Malaysia and Australia.
Currently, Indonesia’s tourism sector accounts for approximately four percent of the total economy. By 2019, the Indonesian government wants to have doubled this figure to 8 percent of GDP, an ambitious target (possibly overly ambitious) which implies that within the next four years, the number of visitors needs to double to about 20 million. In order 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 (marketing) campaigns abroad. The government also revised its visa-free access policy in 2015 to attract more foreign tourists.