Nusa Dua, Bali. The annual trade show Bali & Beyond Travel Fair, or BBTF, kicked off at Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center (BNDCC) on Wednesday (27/06). The trade show is organized by the Bali chapter of the Association of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (Asita) and features 320 buyers from 41 countries and 241 sellers from 6 countries.
Initially, the fair was designed for Bali-based travel industry players to sell their destinations to domestic and international buyers. Then it began inviting sellers from other parts of Indonesia. This year, the organizer – heeding an advice from Tourism Minister Arief Yahya – also invites sellers from other countries to pave a way to become a global marketplace for international tourism.
"We started out with just Bali in mind. But then Minister Arief Yahya suggested we should bring in exhibitors from other countries. This year we've managed to bring exhibitors from 5 countries outside Indonesia," I Ketut Ardana, the chairman of BBTF and Asita Bali, said during a press conference.
The five overseas delegations participating in BBTF 2018 are Cambodia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Singapore and Timor Leste.
"We expect bigger things for this travel fair. We want to be the equal of other serious travel fairs in the world, such as ITB Asia in Singapore," Ketut said.
Ketut said he expects a business-to-business turnover of Rp 7.71 trillion ($539.7 million) during the fair.
Ketut said he's more than confident the target can be achieved since the sellers at the fair went through a rigorous selection process to make sure they have a proven track record of promoting tourist destinations.
Support From Tourism Ministry and Local Administration
Bali's Badung district administration has volunteered this year to co-host BBTF 2018. Its Tourism Office director I Made Badra said the fair can help deliver more tourists to the district. A total of 7 million overseas tourists are expected in Badung this year.
The district administration has decked out its 15,000-capacity Gedung Sasana Budaya to be the main venue for BBTF this year.
Indonesia's Tourism Ministry is also sponsoring the fair since, as the ministry's deputy for foreign market development I Gde Pitana said, Bali is "the main gateway for Indonesia to promote other tourist destinations."
The government is at the moment focusing on promoting 4 priority destinations it calls "New Balis": Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur Temple in Central Java – the biggest Buddhist temple in the world, a string of beautiful beaches and gnarly surfing spots in Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara and Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, a dozy resort town from where you can catch a boat to nearby Komodo and Rinca islands where the prehistoric Komodo dragons live.
These New Balis have their own special pavilions at BBTF 2018.
Pitana said statistics point to even greater things for Indonesian tourism. Last year, the number of foreign tourists coming in to Indonesia increased by 22 percent. This year, there has already been a 14 percent increase in tourist arrivals between January and April compared to last year.
The figures are already above the global tourism growth of 6 percent, and higher than growth numbers in neighboring countries.
"I’m optimistic we'll reach our target of 17 million tourist arrivals in 2018," Pitana said.
The Ministry also held an official launch for its "Bali Hot Deals" at the fair – a combo of 77 tour packages to boost tourist arrivals during low season.
Bali is the third destination to get the hot deals treatment after Riau Islands and Jakarta.
From Business to Leisure
BBTF 2018 kicked off with a tourism seminar discussing Indonesia’s tourism potentials and promotion strategies.
Artist I Made Bandem performed a showcase of traditional arts, including demonstrating the intricate techniques of Balinese dancing, and former Tourism Minister I Gede Ardika made a presentation to explain the Bali-Hindu philosophy of "Tri Hita Karana" – the harmonic relationship between human beings, God and the environment. The philosophy represents the Balinese way of life and is also a guiding principle for sustainable tourism on the Island of the Gods.
BBTF 2018 guests also enjoyed a gala dinner hosted at the famous Garuda Wisnu Kencana cultural park in Badung. The after-dinner entertainment included traditional Balinese dances including "Sekar Jepun" ("frangipani flower"), the official symbol of Badung.
On Wednesday morning, local and foreign journalists were also taken to visit Sababay Winery, a local wine producer and the Tourism Ministry’s co-branding partner for its international "Wonderful Indonesia" campaign.
BBTF 2018 will continue with more seminars and speed-dating-style meetings between sellers and buyers. The fair will conclude with a tour to the Jembrana district on Saturday and Sunday.