OverviewAs one of the world’s largest industries, in 2014 tourism contributed approximately $7.5 billion to the global economy (Statista, 2016). While developed countries have been exploiting the benefits of tourism for a long time now, developing countries are starting to realise that foreign visitors can play an active role in fuelling their economic development and helping isolated communities to promote their cultures whilst benefitting from an extraordinary source of income.
Situated in the Asia Pacific region, Indonesia is a developing country that has been trying to attract more tourists by emphasising its natural wonders, historical background and cultural diversity, as it consists of many volcanic islands where hundreds of different ethnic groups have been living for hundreds of years (Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Indonesia, 2014). As reported by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (2016), Indonesia faces numerous challenges, including severe poverty, high unemployment rates, corruption, unfair resource distribution among islands and obsolete infrastructure. In order to boost the nation’s economy, the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism has spent the last few years trying to develop effective strategies aimed at attracting more foreign tourists (Rachman, 2015).
As Rachman (2015) pointed out, the Ministry of Tourism’s budget for tourism rose from $25 million in 2014 to nearly $100 million in 2015, which clearly indicates that the Indonesian Government intends to turn Indonesia into a highly attractive tourist destination. After the “Wonderful Indonesia” marketing campaign was launched, foreign tourists visited Indonesia over three million times between January and April 2015 (Rachman, 2015). In spite of that, the Ministry of Tourism has made it clear that China, with its 1.35 billion potential visitors, represents a major target market (Rachman, 2015).
Unfortunately, Indonesia’s tourism sector has been suffering as a result of a major terror attack which left seven innocent people dead on January, 14. The attack was carried out near Thamrin Street – a popular shopping district that attracts numerous foreign tourists every year – in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city (BBC News, 2016). As rumours began spreading that local terrorist groups were planning new atrocious attacks, The Telegraph (2016) published a very informative article painting a clear picture of the Indonesian tourism sector. The following section analyses the main aspects of international tourism revealed by the article
Terrorism and tourism
Terrorism refers to the use of violence and intimidation to pursue certain goals, whether political or ideological. During the past few years, there has been a remarkable increase in terrorist attacks carried out by Muslim groups and individuals targeting highly popular tourist destinations in order to drive away foreigners and force locals to change their behaviour. As reported by the Telegraph (2016), on January 14, 2016 seven people died in Jakarta as a result of a series of explosions which brought back fear in a nation that had not experienced such a significant incident since 2009, when two suicide bombers targeted two Western luxury hotels, leaving several guests dead.
The article reveals that before the bombings, the Indonesian Government had already announced that Islamic militants were planning on attacking key government officials, as well as foreign tourists (The Telegraph, 2016). As a result of that, the Government deployed around 150.000 police officers on the December 31, 2015 to keep an eye on particularly dangerous locations, such as churches, airports and various public places across Jakarta (The Telegraph, 2016). An additional 9.000 officers were deployed in Bali, a popular tourist destination that attracts millions of foreign visitors every year (The Telegraph, 2016). Following the attack, all British citizens were advised to stay away from central Jakarta and to keep in mind that the entire country was vulnerable to terrorist attacks (The Telegraph, 2016). Specifically, the Foreign Office Guidance released a statement saying that terrorist groups were planning new attacks and were perfectly capable of executing their murderous plans at any time across Indonesia (The Telegraph, 2016).
While Bali, the nation’s top tourist destination, has an ancient Hindi culture which revolves around peace and tolerance, the article stresses the fact that being the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia is currently very unsafe (The Telegraph, 2016). The terrorists who carried out the latest attacks in Jakarta have certainly succeeded in driving away foreigners, to the extent that Bali’s numerous hotels, guesthouses and most fascinating sites emptied out after the incident (The Telegraph, 2016). After all, Indonesian authorities have been aware of terrorist groups’ interest in Bali since 2002, when over 200 people – most of whom were foreigners – were killed as a result of a terrorist attack planned and executed by a violent Islamist group known as Jemaah Islamiyah as well as an al-Qaeda-linked group (The Telegraph, 2016). In 2005, then, the same Islamist groups carried out another attack at a popular beach resort which left twenty people dead (The Telegraph, 2016).
Following the attacks, tourist arrivals declined significantly, with Bali witnessing a 32% decrease in foreign visitors after 2002 (The Telegraph, 2016). Between 2009 and 2016, the nation did not witness any major terrorist attacks, to the extent that tourists’ confidence rose again and the Ministry of Tourism began investing significant resources in promotional campaigns aimed at marketing Indonesia’s natural wonders (The Telegraph, 2016). In fact, The Telegraph (2016) reported that the weakening threat from terrorism resulted in the Indonesian Government hoping to increase tourism’s contribution to the national Gross Domestic Product from 9% in 2014 to 15% in 2019 (The Telegraph, 2016). However, the recent attack made it clear that Islamist groups are highly likely to stand in the way of the Ministry of Tourism’s ambitious plans.
At this point it is worth mentioning that the rise of the Islamic State has had a negative impact on developing countries with large Muslim populations, where foreign visitors represented a significant source of export earnings. For example, Turkey has also been affected negatively by recent terror attacks which left numerous foreigners dead. The main problem with Muslim-majority nations is that the Islamic State has attracted many fighters who have been trained in battle and are now returning to their respective countries, where they will probably attempt to impose their religious ideas and express their intolerance of foreign cultures through violence.
In other words, as terrorist groups become increasingly powerful and determined to execute their murderous plans across the world, it is highly likely that more and more tourists will start preferring safer destinations to Indonesia, where terrorism is starting to cast a shadow over the country’s unquestionable beauty and fascinating history.
Terrorism is a phenomenon that causes both locals and visitors to change their behaviour in order not to compromise their safety. People’s tendency to stay away from dangerous places may be defined as a survival mechanism that is bound to have a negative impact on tourism.
Indonesia is a beautiful country whose cultural diversity, archaeological sites and natural wonders would certainly attract millions of tourists every year, were it not for the presence of terrorist groups that have been attempting to get in the way of the Government’s plans to strengthen its tourism industry for many years now. While the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism aims to attract as many as ten million tourists a year by promoting Indonesia all over the world – especially in China – the recent Jakarta bombings have caused foreign visitors to leave the country, thus making it clear that in order for Indonesia to become an attractive tourist destination, more will have to be done to guarantee tourists’ safety.
- BBC News (2016). Jakarta attacks: Bombs and gunfire rock Indonesian capital. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35309195
- Central Intelligence Agency (2016). Indonesia. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/id.html
- Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Indonesia (2014). Indonesia. Retrieved from http://www.indonesia.travel/overview
- Rachman, A. (2015). Indonesia’s Tourism Industry. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2015/06/01/indonesias-tourism-industry-the-numbers/
- Statista (2016). Statistics and facts on the global tourism industry. Retrieved from http://www.statista.com/topics/962/global-tourism/
- The Telegraph (2016). Jakarta attacks: how terror dents tourism in Indonesia. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/indonesia/articles/Jakarta-attacks-how-terror-dents-tourism-in-Indonesia/