JAKARTA. When it comes to traveling, Bali-based customer-service executive Cinca Patria only needs her smartphone to take care of almost everything, including booking flights and hotel rooms.
As an avid budget traveler, Cinca said she frequently looked out for promotion programs at online travel sites such as Traveloka and Booking.com in the hope of getting the most for her money.
"I travel a lot and go abroad at least once a year. With online bookings, I have full authority over how to arrange my budget," the 26-year-old told The Jakarta Post over the phone on Friday.
Cinca is a text-book example of techsavvy millennials, the likely game changers in the global travel and tourism sector, as identified in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017.
The latest edition of the biennial report, published earlier this week, suggested that millennials would become the core customer base for the industry in the next five to 10 years. Their spending on business flights is predicted to account for 50 percent of global travel by 2020 and to maintain that share for the subsequent 15 years.
While Indonesia saw its position jump by eight places to 42nd in the report’s competitiveness index, mainly as a result of its decision to loosen visa regulations for foreign tourists, questions remain regarding whether it has done enough to tap opportunities among this growing customer base.
In the resort island of Bali, the country’s most popular getaway destination, the domination of millennial travelers from countries such as Australia, Malaysia and Singapore, is visible in terms of volume but not in spending, at least for now, said Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agents (ASITA) chairman Asnawi Bahar.
Asnawi, however, still considers them to be a huge opportunity, as he encourages local hospitality providers to team up not only with online travel services but also those that offer innovative business models, such as international holiday rental giant Airbnb, to expand their marketing outreach.
"These young travelers currently don’t really spend much. But, we should be flexible in responding to future trends," he said.
Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) chairman Hariyadi Sukamdani, meanwhile, highlighted the importance of online campaigns for the industry. The millennial market, he said, was sensitive to online reviews of hotels or other facilities, as well as price, as they were all comparable online.
Last year, Indonesia welcomed 11.5 million foreign tourists, with those from China topping the list at 1.43 million arrivals.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has set his sights on tourism as one of the main sectors to be developed under his administration. His administration is eyeing 20 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2019, with this year’s target standing at 15 million.
The efforts to boost the tourism sector, however, have met with many challenges, including a lack of infrastructure and capable human resources.
For example, only 34 percent of Chinese tourists come in direct flights to local airports, much lower than the 82 percent recorded in Thailand.
With that, it is no surprise that the WEF report ranked Indonesia’s air transportation infrastructure at 36th position out of 136 economies surveyed, standing behind regional rivals Singapore (sixth), Thailand ( 20th ) and Malaysia ( 21st ). Those three countries also fare better than Indonesia in the report’s overall position at 13th, 26th and 34th, respectively.
Separately, the Tourism Ministry’s deputy minister for overseas promotion I Gde Pitana said while efforts to improve infrastructure were ongoing, the government had also intensified measures to ease access for foreign tourists entering the country, including through the introduction of a free-visa policy for travelers from 169 countries.
"Competitiveness is really our mission at the moment so we can stand a chance in the international market," Pitana said. (Farida Susanty)