Indonesian Tourism Ready to Erupt

In June, Mount Sangiang erupted in Indonesia's West Nusa Tengara, shooting three columns of smoke and ash up to about 7.5 miles into the air. Thankfully no one was hurt, and the volcano just gave an impressive show of the power that still lurks in Indonesia's legendary Ring of Fire.

As magnificent as that show was, it's nothing compared to what Indonesia will show travelers when they finally discover one of the most underrated destinations in the world. The travel industry keeps waiting for Indonesia, with all of its great travel resources, to erupt on the scene as a "can't-miss" destination. Some more work needs to be done before that can really happen, and so for the time it remains an off-beat destination with the exception of Bali, which is now overly touristed.

As it heads into the fourth quarter of a successful 2014, Indonesian tourism officials are ebullient and predicting the country will achieve the optimistic target set at the beginning of the year, some 9.5 million visitors and some $11 billion in revenues. There's no reason why a country with some 17,000 tropical islands, literally hundreds of intriguing cultures, too many miles of pristine beaches to count, rainforests, arts, the temples of Yogyakarta and Bali, one of the most famous bucket list destinations in the world, wouldn't be doing great, but Indonesia should do better. Neighboring Singapore, a small city state at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, attracted 20 million in 2013.  

The economics of tourism is part of a Master Plan developed by the Indonesian government to transform the country into a global economic powerhouse by 2025. The country is already in the G 20 group of largest economies. The plan will require $470 billion in investments that the government hopes to gather via public-private partnerships. Infrastructural improvements are at the top of the list and they're also chief among the reasons that Indonesia is not living up to its tourism potential.

A recent story in the Jakarta Post explored Indonesia's swiftly rising cruise tourism industry. About 160,000 passengers arrived in Indonesia by cruise in 2013, a number that is expected to reach 203,000 by the end of this year. Cruise ships made 309 calls at Indonesian ports in 2013, an increase of 44 percent over 2012. This year, Indonesian ports are projected to receive 385 port calls by the end of the year. Princess Cruises' Director for Southeast Asia Farrik Tawfik, is quoted in the Jakarta Post saying that Indonesia has potential for being the "Caribbean of the East."



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