Deputy Director International Marketing, Ministry of Tourism, Indonesia
Indonesia: Islands Beyond India
Indonesia has been emerging as the travel hotspot for Indians pertaining to the cultural similarity between the two countries and a wide range of itineraries on offer. Other aspects such as free visa-on-arrival come in handy.
How important is India for you?
India is an important market for Indonesia. According to the data, tourists from India are increasing every year. Lately we are doing well in terms of weddings as well and not only leisure. It is such a wonderful place for weddings to take place as it is well connected. Also, there is so much India and Indonesia interrelate with in terms of culture, history, religion and language. Look at certain words from the Hindi language such as swami (Hindu religious master), khushi (happiness) – these are also present in Indonesia. The way of greeting each other – Namaste – that is also similar.
A lot of Puja ceremonies (worshipping rituals) that take place in Indonesia and also the gods that we revered such as Brahama and Vishnu – all this comes from India. I want to quote two big examples – Indonesia has a big Muslim population and India has the Taj Mahal, which is a tomb of Muslims, on the other hand in Indonesia we have the most beautiful temple Borobudur. The most beautiful Rmayana dancers and the most beautiful part of the Mahabharata is depicted in Indonesia. If you travel around Bali there are so many sculptures of Arjuna (a character from Mahabharata) – there is one right outside the airport in which he is riding the horses and protecting Krishna (Hindu God). Even if you go to the art and crafts market, you will find the statues of Ganesha and dancing Shiva (Hindu Gods) – there’s so much similarity.
All this was already a part of the Indonesian culture?
Indonesia means islands beyond India – so it is already a part of India. When the great earthquakes happened these islands occurred. But we are the same. For example, the Java Island has a huge Hindu population and still has Hindu names such as Gatokatcha (a character from Mahabharata). Even the way of wearing clothes has the same interpretation for example in India sari is a draped garment, similarly we have a blouson with a sarong. The classical dance mudras (postures) of the Balinese dance forms and the Indian dance forms are the same.
So to say we are two different countries but start with the same letter ‘I’, follow the letter ‘n’, then follow the letter ‘d’ and even end with the same letter ‘a’.
Which destinations are you focusing in Indonesia for Indian travellers?
We are mainly focusing on Bali and Jakarta. Indians love coming down to Jakarta. They must visit the Borobudur and the Brahmananad temples. Lately weddings can also be organised in Yogyakarta (also called Jogjakarta) and have the permission to keep these temples in the background – the statues of Vishnu, Saraswati, Brahma and Parvati in the background look absolutely mesmerising and make for a perfect Indian wedding. There’s so much of amalgamation from India and Hinduism – it doenst feel there is any difference as such. However, Indonesia supports every religion, it doesn’t matter which religion you are from.
Borobudur stupas overlooking a mountain. For centuries it was deserted
How has the growth been in terms of number of tourists from India?
Last year we had 272,000 Indian travellers to Indonesia, out of which 118,000 were to Bali and the rest were beyond Bali. This year we are expecting close to 350,000 Indian travellers. Growth is double digits and its flowing upwards.
What kind of visa process you have for Indians and what is the status of direct flights?
We now give visa on arrival, which was announced on October 12 last year by the ministry. Regarding the flights, we have been working with Garuda Indonesia on direct flights from India – hopefully that will start soon, initially we will look at a test run of three times a week and then maybe we will expand further. We have a few airport entry points open for all whether it is from Delhi to Jakarta, Mumbai to Denpasar (Bali), Medan, Surbaya, Batam or Bintan – entry from these points will be free. We are not only targeting people coming from India but we are also looking at a huge section of NRIs (Non-Resident Indians), PIOs (Persons of Indian origin) and OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India), who all are coming through Batam. Most of the Indian visitors are used to luxury hotels and facilities and Batam has amazing facilities.
Do you collaborate with Bollywood?
Two years ago, we had the entire Mahabharata serial protagonists coming to Indonesia. This year, we are againg looking at two or three other popular daily soaps coming to Indonesia. Their costumes are the representation of India and Indonesians can connect easily with them. Every day on the Indonesian television at least five Indian films dubbed in Indonesian languages are being played – you go to any corner of the country and people are huge fans of Shahrukh Khan and Kajol, the famous Indian film actors.
Any special itineraries for Indian travellers?
The majority of Indians coming to Indonesia are honeymooners who are looking at packages, which are about exploring the islands, have big bath tubs, a little bit of wedding photography with Bali traditional dresses etc. These packages are really doing well for us. Then we have families coming in groups, which require 3-4 rooms in their packages. And since the families comprise of mother, father, kids and even grandparents, the packages we offer include something for all the age groups for example for elderly people we look for activities related to culture and prayers, for youngsters we have activities related to adventure sports, treetop climbing etc. Here you will find activities for 6-month-old baby to a 80-year-old grandpa. So we cater depending on the groups coming in.
What are the top two segments you are looking at from India?
Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions and honeymooners are the top two segments. Other then this, we are targeting families, weddings and also Bollywood shoots. Though Bollywood is not easy right now in terms of taxes, excise duty and subsidies, we are hopeful. If we can encourage more of these segments then nothing better. For example, the direct flight has taken us more than four years.
Nevertheless, we have noticed that every month huge delegations are coming from India, every month there’s an Indian wedding, so by the end of this year the atrets will be achieved.
How does the OTOAI convention 2016 work for Bali Tourism?
Of course when the delegates of OTOAI (Outbound Tour Operators Association of India) meet in Bali, it gets promoted as a destination by various segments of the industry – media, tour operators, hoteliers etc. The exposure is there and it is quite an honour for us to have such a delegation here in Bali.