Friday, June 21, 2024 | 19:33 WIB

Pinpointing Indonesia’s tourism challenges in 2024

Jakarta, IO – The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has conveyed promising news, revealing that by the end of 2023, global tourism will have recovered by almost 90 percent, compared to the pre-pandemic era. 

According to the latest UNWTO data, an estimated 975 million travelers took international journeys between January and September 2023, which is a 38 percent significant increase compared to the same period in the previous year, 2022. 

The UNWTO also reveals the following facts: 

• Global tourist destinations saw a 22 percent increase in international visitors during the third quarter of 2023, compared to the same period the previous year, reflecting a robust summer in the Northern Hemisphere. 

• International tourist arrivals reached up to 91 percent of the pre-pandemic era in the third quarter and peaked at 92 percent in July, marking the best month since the beginning of the pandemic. 

• The tourism sector shows an 87 percent recovery overall, from January to September 2023, which shows a nearly 90 percent recovery by year-end. 

• International tourism revenues are projected to reach USD 1.4 trillion in 2023, approximately 93 percent of the USD 1.5 trillion earned in 2019. 

The UNWTO’s recent data demonstrates that international tourism has nearly recovered from the COVID-19 crisis. More tourism destinations are flourishing and receiving multiple numbers of tourists compared to the pre-pandemic era. 

The Secretary-General of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, mentioned that the latest UNWTO data indicates that international tourism has almost fully recovered, with significant information about tourism destinations, businesses, and communities vitally engaging with the tourism sector. 

Several regions with the fastest tourism recovery include the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. The Middle East continues to flourish, with tourist arrivals surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 20 percent, from January to September 2023. 

Taufan Rahmadi
Taufan Rahmadi, Expert in Indonesian tourism strategy

• The Middle East emerges as the sole region worldwide to surpass 2019 arrival levels by reinforcing strategic measures such as visa facilitation, new destination development, investment in tourism-related projects, and hosting major events. 

• As the world’s largest tourist destination, Europe welcomed 550 million international tourists during this period (Jan. to September 2023), amounting to 56 percent of the global total number of tourists, which represents an impressive 94 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The recovery was supported by high intra-regional demand and strong interest from the United States. 

• Africa recovered nearly 92 percent of pre-pandemic visitors from January to September 2023, while arrivals in the Americas reached 88 percent of the total 2019 visitor count for the same period. The region benefits from strong demand from the U.S., particularly for Caribbean destinations. 

• Asia and the Pacific reached 62 percent of the pre-pandemic era numbers during this period, due to the slow reopening of international travel. The performance varies among subregions, with South Asia experiencing a robust 95 percent recovery, while Northeast Asia only recovered about 50 percent. 

The tourism sector also indicates a growing trend for shopping during international travel, with many exceeding the 2019 period. Germany and the United States spent, respectively, 13 and 11 percent more on foreign travel compared to the same period (Jan to Sept) in 2019, while Italy spent 16 percent more in August. 

The air travel industry also indicated sustainable recovery, based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and research firm STR Global, with the UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker detailing a major recovery in air passenger numbers and occupancy rates. 

Based on the above data, 2024 is promising an increased international tourism level, with the potential to fully recover from the pre-pandemic era, despite economic challenges such as a high inflation rate, weaker global output, and geopolitical tensions and conflicts. 

Indonesia prioritizes its tourism sector and also faces tourism challenges, one of which is the high number of Indonesian tourists traveling abroad. 

Traveloka recorded a nearly threefold increase in searches for international flights compared to the same period last year. The domestic tourism industry must anticipate an increase in Indonesian tourists traveling abroad, following the Christmas and New Year holiday seasons in 2023. 

Indonesian tourists traveling abroad are influenced by several factors: 

a. Cheaper airfares. 

Domestic flight tickets between local destinations are considerably more expensive than tickets to destinations abroad. 

b. More attractive tour package promotions. 

Famous tourist destination countries such as Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia are offering enticing tour packages with interesting attractions for Indonesian tourists. 

c. For prestige and seeking new experiences. 

For some Indonesians, vacationing abroad is considered a way to elevate one’s prestige, which is especially true when visiting iconic international tourist destinations. 

Those who travel abroad are typically the city’s middle class, often motivated to spend their holidays and seek new experiences in another country. The number of Indonesian tourists traveling abroad is expected to increase during the Christmas and New Year holiday seasons in 2023. 

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Apart from the significant number of middle-class Indonesian tourists vacationing abroad, other challenges in the tourism industry include, first, how to increase the number of foreign visitors to Indonesia. Second, the government and its related stakeholders are advised to lower the high cost of domestic flight tickets. Third, the sustainable government’s support for tourism and the creative economy. Fourth, improve the quality of services in tourist destinations. Fifth, advance tourism development and the creative economy by improving infrastructure. Sixth, develop the quality of human resources in tourism and the creative economy. Lastly, restore big data utilization in Indonesia’s tourism sector. 

The stakeholders engaged in Indonesian tourism require a serious commitment to put their efforts in, particularly the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, to coordinate relevant parties, including other ministries and institutions, and ensure that they meet the targets in the tourism sector.