Empty beach beds are seen at Tanjong Benoa, Bali on Oct. 20, 2020. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

New Minister Sandiaga Unveils 2021 Plan for Pandemic-Hit Tourism

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

DECEMBER 30, 2020

Jakarta. Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno unveils his plan to help the pandemic-hit tourism industry back on its feet in 2021, pledging to continue his predecessor Wishnutama Kusubandio's policies, including tourism grants and health protocol certifications.

In October, Wishnutama announced a grant program totaling Rp 3.3 trillion ($233 million), which is first transferred to the regional government. Around 70 percent of the funds go to hotels and restaurants. The remaining 30 percent is given to support the regional government's efforts to alleviate the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 in the tourism and creative economy sector.

"The stimulus for people within the tourism and the creative economy sector is not only extended but expanded," Sandiaga told a press conference — conducted both in-person and virtual — on Tuesday.

"Previously, it was just for hotels and restaurants. But now we will even expand them to tourism package organizers and even the informal sector workers," he said.

Sandiaga will also continue Wishnutama's strategy on cleanliness, health, safety, and environmental sustainability (CHSE) certification to rebuild people's trust to travel amid the pandemic. The CHSE certifies that a tourist destination or a place of business has met health protocol standards. Based on CHSE's official website, there are currently 4,755 tourism businesses that have received the certification.

"We do not need to wait for a vaccine because we have the '3M' health protocol [mask-wearing, handwashing, physical distancing] and the CHSE. 2021 is the beginning of a tourism recovery momentum, but we must be disciplined," the former Jakarta deputy governor said.

His entrance into the ministerial cabinet coincides with the findings of the new, highly infectious Covid-19 strain overseas. On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Retno announced a 14-days lockdown starting on Jan. 1, 2021, to prevent the new variant from entering the country.

This decision can close doors for foreign tourists. But Sandiaga said the people's health comes first. The ministry will also wait for the latest update from the Health Ministry.

"The tourism and creative economy sector prioritize health. But regarding this new variant, the Health Ministry is the leading sector. We will wait if there are any anticipatory steps. If we have to adapt to the variant, our team can immediately adapt, such as by having additional steps for the CHSE," Sandiaga said.

"But we have to wait for the feedback and update from the health sector regarding this new variant," he added.

With the virus still widespread, the ministry now focuses on domestic tourism. They also seek to exploit the potential of big data and personalized ads. For instance, people that are into nature are likely to see ads related to nature tourism on their social media platforms, thanks to big data.

"This is the personalized, customized, localized, and smaller-in-size concept. Our priority is domestic tourism, and the products we offer include outdoor tourism, sports tourism, ecotourism, as well as wellness and health tourism," Sandiaga said.

According to Sandiaga, the five super-priority tourism destinations are also part of the 2021 plan.

The government has selected five destinations to be built as the new Bali, which is among the world's top tourist destinations. 

These five priority destinations include Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur in Central Java, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara. Also on the list are Likupang in North Sulawesi and Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara.

"For the year ahead, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has instructed us to prepare all aspects of these five destinations, be it the soft and hard infrastructure, culinary, fashion, and even the tiniest details like colors and buttons. We also have to prepare the handicrafts for souvenirs by involving micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and create as many jobs," Sandiaga said.

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