Jakarta. Southeast Asia’s largest economy needs to improve its infrastructure to attract more foreign tourists, according to experts who blame slow foreign tourist arrivals in part on the country’s poor airports.
Indonesia reaped more than $10 billion in foreign exchange earnings from overseas tourists last year, underscoring the industry as a growing contributor to the nation’s economy. The country welcomed 8.8 million foreign tourists last year, compared with 8 million the year before.
“Indonesia sees an average increase of 5 percent per year [in the number of foreign tourists],” according to Stephanie Riady, committee head at Agora Exhibitions, which organizes the “Hospitality Career and Education Expo.”
Jakarta-based Agora has been holding similar expos in the past year. It also hosted the world education expo last year.
The country seeks to attract as many as 9.5 million overseas arrivals this year, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry said early in March.
“As Indonesia becomes a travel destination for foreign tourists, this opens up more opportunities, including for local hotel companies,” Stephanie said.
The country sees major potential in China with its 1.3 billion population, coupled with a fast-growing economy.
“The [Tourism and Creative Economy] Ministry aims to attract tourists from China as it has so many citizens,” Nabilla Shabrina, Miss Tourism Indonesia 2013, said during the event. “If we could get half of its total number of tourists [to visit Indonesia], that would be a great benefit to us.”
She added that the tourism industry remains one of the biggest contributors to Indonesia’s foreign exchange earnings.
There were 747,921 tourists from China last year, or 8.5 percent of the total.
Singapore accounted for 1.4 million, Malaysia for 1.2 million, and Australia for 928,279, according to Statistics Office data.