Tourism Minister Arief Yahya thanked Indonesian netizens and tourism stakeholders on Saturday (04/11) following the country’s wins at the Dive Magazine Travel Awards. (Photo courtesy of the Tourism Ministry)

Riau Islands Need to Focus More on Tourism: Minister

BY :DAMES ALEXANDER SINAGA

APRIL 04, 2017

Riau Islands. Riau Islands are one of the best places to visit in Indonesia, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said during a coordination meeting with officials from the province at the Aston Hotel in Tanjung Pinang on Monday (03/04), but the region still has some way to go before it can become a favorite tourist destination in Indonesia.

Arief pointed out three reasons why more tourists should come to the islands: the archipelago is already the third most popular destination for international visitors after Bali and Jakarta; it could become the gateway to Indonesia's marine tourism sites thanks to its proximity to Singapore where many yacht clubs and cruise ships dock; and it is part of a busy cross-border region thanks to people crossing from Singapore to Batam, Bintan and Tanjung Balai Karimun.

Arief said there will be many upcoming international events to promote marine tourism in the area, especially after the launch of the Visit Asean@50 program. Tourism in the islands can benefit from regional cooperation programs between the Asean countries.

"President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has made it his personal goal to turn Indonesia into a force in the global tourism industry," Arief said.

He also said the islands' government needs to start boosting its tourism industry to reduce its reliance on raw commodities to drive the economy.

"The tourism industry has been rising in the past five years, and really picked up speed in the past couple of years," Arief said, adding that industries relying on raw commodities such as oil and gas, coal mining and palm oil seem to be on a continuous slide.

The Indonesian government wants tourism to be the biggest contributor to its foreign exchange reserves by 2019.

"Riau Islands used to be the biggest crude oil producer in Indonesia, but now they should shift their focus to tourism," the minister said.

Quoting American writer and futurist Alvin Toffler, Arief said the global industry has entered a new stage of revolution, after going through three phases of the industrial revolution: agriculture, manufacture and information technology.

"Tourism is the fourth phase of the industrial revolution. From now on the emphasis will be on cultural and creative industries," Arief said.

Riau Islands Governor Nurdin Basyirun pointed out the unique potential of some of the islands in the archipelago, for example the rich marine tourism in Anambas Island.

Buralimar, the head of the province's tourism agency, said, "Our target is to attract three million international visitors out of the national target of 15 million overseas tourists in 2017."

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