Sunday, 29 Nov 2020

Indonesia's tourism industry suffers more than $9.5b losses due to Covid-19 pandemic

JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NETWORK) – Losses suffered by Indonesia’s tourism industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic have exceeded Rp100 trillion (S$9.5 billion), a business association said.

Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) data show that the current situation has led to massive layoffs within the industry, with around 550,000 hotel employees, or around 78.5 per cent of the total registered workers in the industry, already furloughed or laid off.

In the restaurant industry, around 1 million of the 1.5 million registered restaurant workers have also either been furloughed or laid off since the beginning of the outbreak in Indonesia, the PHRI stated.

“While we haven’t updated the (data on) the tourism industry’s condition by the third quarter, we can say the revenue loss exceeded Rp100 trillion at the beginning of November,” PHRI chairman Hariyadi Sukamdani said during an online press conference on Monday (Nov 16).

“Tourism businesses are suffering the most during the pandemic even though we implement strict health protocols.”

The tourism industry is one of the hardest-hit sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic, as people limit their activities and cancel their vacation plans. According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), the number of foreign tourist arrivals slumped 70.57 per cent year-on-year between January and September to 3.56 million visitors.

Mr Hariyadi, as well as a total of 18 business associations under the Visit Wonderful Indonesia Board (VIWI), also criticised the inconsistency in the government’s large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) implementation.

The criticism of the PSBB came after a series of mass gatherings in and near the capital city centered around the return of controversial Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab from self-exile in Saudi Arabia last week.

The gatherings include the wedding ceremony of Mr Rizieq’s daughter last Saturday, which also served to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, which attracted thousands of guests.

“As we did not see any tough sanctions for PSBB violators, we believe that the protocols are no longer relevant,” Mr Hariyadi said.

VIWI members, including Indonesia’s Family Recreation Association (ARKI), also protested the unfairness of placing restrictions on hotels, restaurants and entertainment centres, while allowing the mass gatherings.

“We’ve seen large gatherings during the maulid (Prophet Muhammad’s birthday) commemoration, where virtually no one wore a mask. We fear it would create new clusters, but (the tourism industry) is always the one to blame,” ARKI chairman Taufik Wumu said at the same event.

The Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) slapped the cleric with a Rp50 million fine after finding him guilty of disregarding Covid-19 health protocols by not limiting the number of guests attending his daughter’s wedding on Saturday.

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National Police chief General Idham Azis has also removed Jakarta Police chief Insp-Gen Nana Sudjana and West Java Police chief Insp-Gen Rudy Sufahradi Novianti from their positions on Monday for their failure to enforce coronavirus health protocols.

During the discussion, Mr Hariyadi of the PHRI also criticised the amount of the fine imposed by the Jakarta administration on PSBB violators.

“In a restaurant, if there is a slight violation such us seat arrangement with no physical distancing, we could face a Rp50 million fine. Meanwhile, those who gather tens of thousands of people pay the same amount of fine,” he said. “Therefore, rather than inconsistently applying the PSBB policy, it would be better to scrap it altogether.”

Tourism expert from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) M. Baiquni told The Jakarta Post that the government should not scrap the PSBB policy despite the frequent violations coming from political rallies, mass organisation events and private celebrations.

“I think we shouldn’t scrap the PSBB policy yet because we still haven’t got the vaccine and there are still reports of spiking virus cases in several regions,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

He also said that while a return to normalcy would increase people’s mobility, it did not guarantee an increase in visits to tourist destinations and entertainment centres.

“The general public would surely remain cautious and would not immediately go on a vacation like during normal times. Individuals will start self-regulating and limiting their exposure, especially if they have a comorbid illness,” he said.

However, he said the government could ease restrictions for open-air tourist spots and health activities where social distancing is possible.

“Outdoor tourism should have fewer restrictions so the tourism industry has breathing space. On the other hand, indoor entertainment such as nightclubs should remain restricted because it’s hard to control the customers’ movement,” Mr Baiquni said.

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