RI on the outs with tourists: Survey

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia fares poorly in a survey on the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, being ranked outside the top ten and way behind Thailand, Japan and China, which were named the top-three destinations.

Natural disasters, terrorist attacks and travel warnings are among the reasons for people's reluctance to visit Indonesia, the survey found.

The survey was conducted by Visa International in cooperation with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Of the 5,050 respondents from 10 countries -- Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Sweden, Britain, the U.S and Australia -- only 3 percent named Indonesia as their preferred holiday destination in Asia.

"Around 56 percent of respondents have perceptions that Indonesia is not a safe place to visit and is still severely affected by tsunamis and other disasters that frequently hit the country," Paul Wilke, director for corporate relations with the Asia-Pacific division of Visa International, said Tuesday.

"They also identified Indonesia as a main target of terrorist attacks."

The respondents polled in the "Asia Travel Intention Survey 2007" were mostly frequent Asia travelers.

However, the survey found that Indonesia would likely enjoy increasing numbers of foreign visitors in times to come, albeit with growth being slower than in its Asian peers, with PATA projecting the number to grow by 8 percent this year to 5.2 million, from 4.8 million last year.

This figure is expected to increase in the following years by an average of 3 percent per year.

Central Statistics Agency (BPS) figures show that the number of tourist arrivals in 2006 declined by 2.5 percent from some 5 million in 2005. In 2004, the figure stood at 5.3 million.

In another part of the survey, Thailand was voted the number-one travel destination, with 21 percent of the vote from the respondents, followed by Japan on 13 percent and China on 12 percent. The others in the top ten were Hong Kong, Maldives, Singapore, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and Korea.

"Thailand remains the most popular holiday spot despite the political turmoil that occurred in that country several weeks before the survey was conducted," Wilke said.

Among the respondents, Swedes were the most interested in traveling to Asia with 76 percent of respondents saying that would like to do so, followed by the Chinese on 58 percent, British on 57 percent, Australians on 56 percent and Koreans on 48 percent. Then came, in descending order, Canadians, Germans, Japanese, Americans and Indians.

According to the survey, the things most likely to keep vacationers away from Asia are terrorism, political unrest, travel warnings, safety and security concerns, bird flu and high costs.

In addition, language obstacles, long distances, fear of tsunamis and difficulties in exchanging currencies would also make some respondents think twice before traveling to Asia. (04)
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