RI missing out on China's growing tourist market

Andi Haswidi, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua

Despite the country's numerous award-winning travel destinations, including resort island Bali, Indonesia will miss out on China's growing outbound tourism market in the next 12 months due to safety perceptions, according to a survey.

According to the preliminary results of a survey by the Nielsen Company on China's outbound market, Indonesia is not in the top 10 planned destinations for Chinese travelers.

"I think, again, the perception on safety is what is keeping Indonesia out of the top 10 list," ACNielsen China's senior manager for travel and leisure research, Grace Pan, told workshop participants Thursday during the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) 2007 Travel Mart, in Nusa Dua, Bali.

The top 10 destinations in the survey are Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Macau, Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, United Kingdom, South Korea and Italy.

According to data from the Bali tourism authority, Chinese tourist arrivals to the island, the top tourist destination in Indonesia, reached 22,743 last year.

That figure has already more than doubled to 53,113 as of the end of August this year.

Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik said recently that Indonesia, particularly Bali, had rebounded as a tourist destination, with average tourist arrivals surging from 1,500 a day in 2001 to 5,300 so far in 2007.

However, the country has failed to capitalize on the huge potential of the Chinese outbound market.

As the fastest growing economy in the world, the total number of Chinese going abroad for leisure reached about 34 million last year, up from 31 million in 2005. That figure is expected to grow to 50 million by 2010, according to the World Trade Organization.

According to research by Nielsen, Chinese leisure travelers spent nearly US$3,000 per person per trip. Travelers from Europe top this list at $4,135 per person per trip, while all travelers visiting Asian countries spent an average of $2,047 per trip.

"While nearly half of the travelers use standard accommodations, more than a third of the travelers use four-star hotels and above," Pan said.

Pan told workshop participants the Internet was the best way to reach potential Chinese tourists, given the size of China and its huge population.

"Conventional travel agents still take the lead, however booking online is becoming more and more important," she said.

Her research found about 61 percent of Chinese tourists relied on direct contact with travel agents, 30 percent used online travel agents and 15 percent relied on friends and relatives in their planned destinations.

Speaking to reporters after the opening of the PATA Travel Mart on Wednesday, Minister Wacik said the increased safety measures put in place since the second Bali bombings in 2005 had made the country in general and the island in particular more secure.

"Aside from closed security and open security measures, there is also the traditional security, where every village chief inspects their area twice daily for suspicious activity and registers all incoming visitors," he said.
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