Your background is in telecomunications; how has this background prepared you for your job here in the tourism ministry, and which parts of this are you implementing here?

There are similarities between telecommunications and tourism. Both have the “more for more” strategy, in which you receive more the more you pay, and the “less for less” strategy, the converse. On the other hand, the Ministry of Tourism is now applying the “more for less” strategy, where you pay a lower price but receive more instead.

This has been possible thanks to a new digital framework that permits enhanced services without raising cost. Every aspect of the industry is conditioned by excess capacity. look at accommodation: the occupation of hotels is generally 55%, so there is 45% excess capacity. What we are doing now is selling it. Our viewpoint is that we sell the trip cheaper to gain full capacity: therefore “more for less”.

So is this what you offer through your GoDigital Platform?

Exactly. The GoDigital platform is our primary strategy, which will be implemented though the Travel X-Change Indonesia (TXI), inspired by Tourism Travel X-change Australia (TXA), another digital marketplace. We intend to be the largest online travel agent in the country by inviting SMEs to participate. The Government will in this way provide the platform for all players, small and big, who wish to enlist. 

What is your vision for tourism and how do you see it developing in the long run?

Our tourism volume is significantly lower than Malaysia and Thailand, but with the potential of our natural and cultural resources it doesn’t need to be.The first step has been to identify strengths and weaknesses.

Our principal weakness is infrastructure, notably air connectivity. China only has 40% direct flights to Indonesia whereas Singapore has 86%, Thailand 81% and Malaysia 78%. This is why we’ve opened our doors to all airlines that wish to fly to Indonesia. We are properly equipping and expanding existing airports, while developing new ones.

How do you approach international marketing for Indonesia?

We have a three pronged strategy when it comes to promoting Indonesia: branding, which includes public relations, advertising and sales. This month we were awarded with the International Grand Prix Award at in the XIII International Tourism Film Festival in Bulgaria for our TV commercial for Indonesia. “Wonderful Indonesia” was awarded “Best Exhibitor” for the second consecutive year at the ITB (International Tourismus Börse) in Berlin.

Coming back to your main projects, GoDigital, airline activities and the housing facilities (home stays), how far did you manage to apply your plans to each of them?

All three projects are on track, GoDigital being the most advanced one. Our Airlines have joined the system, as well as more than 6,000 hotels and restaurants. This means that by July we will be ready to release ITX.

On air connectivity, the last meeting was focused around this because we believe that in order to reach 15 million international visitors there is a shortage of 4 million airline seats. Until February 2017 we had already achieved additional 2 million.

As for the homestays, we have 75,000 villages that need to be developed, and if we were to wait for a hotel to be built in each village, this would take years. As an alternative, we are promoting the home stays venture, which is not only less problematic, but has lower costs than a conventional hotel.

So are the home stays going to be similar to Airbnb, with a platform available for the villagers?

Yes, we are providing the application that will be used for home stays all over the country, much as Airbnb does worldwide. The ITX platform will provide easy access to our database of home stays in Indonesia. The application will also provide the necessary items for the correct management of the homestay such as the logbook and the payment. This year our goal is to reach 20,000 home stays. We want to transform the cooperatives into corporations: it is the government’s responsibility to provide the platform to enable small enterprises to function in Indonesia.

By the end of your term as Minister, when looking back, what would you be proud of having achieved for Indonesia’s tourism development?

I would say I am most proud of the commercial progress we have made.

By 2019, we want the tourism sector to be the largest foreign exchange contributor to Indonesia’s GDP: we firmly believe that within two years when our service will be completed, that will be the case.