Overseas tourist arrivals in Indonesia rose 13.2% to 6.23 million in 2008, data showed on Monday, although fell short of a government target of 7 million as the global economic crisis curbed foreign trips.
Tourist arrivals in December last year rose 17.7% from a year ago to 610,452, up from 518,700 in the same month a year earlier, the statistics bureau said.
Ben Sukma, the chair of the Indonesian Travel Agents Association, said the financial crisis had cooled tourism last year and said achieving the same target this year of 7 million tourist may depend on how smoothly parliamentary and presidential elections run.
“If the elections run smoothly, then I think 7 million visitors next year can be met,” said Sukma, adding that the government should target promotions in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and China.
Culture and tourism minister Jero wacik has previously said the government expected a similar range of foreign visitor arrivals in the next year, despite the global economic slowdown.
Carla Parengkuan, executive director of the Indonesian Hotels Association, said the sharper rise in December may have been due to holiday-makers switching to Indonesia after security concerns in Thailand and India.
The Thai government imposed emergency rule in early September following clashes between pro-and anti-government groups, while protesters occupied Bangkok’s main airport, with the protests peaking in late November, stranding thousands of tourists.
In India, more than 100 people were killed in attacks by suspected Muslim militants on Mumbai, India’s financial capital in November.
Tourism accounts for about 3% of gross domestic product in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, but some areas, including the resort island of Bali, are heavily dependent on tourism for jobs and growth.
Indonesia’s tourist attractions range from rainforests and beaches to volcanoes and ancient temples. The industry has shown a recovery after being battered by the Bali bombings in 2002, the 2004 tsunami, earthquakes and outbreaks of bird flu.