Category: Business

Indonesia taps into Muslim tourist market with Shariah hotels

Hotel-Cut-Meutia
Shariah-based Hotel Sofyan in Central Jakarta. Photo: Sofyan Hotel

With a rising awareness to promote Muslim-friendly travel, the widespread adoption of Shariah-based accommodation is not always successfully put into practice, as Octine Riyantini realized during one of her stays at a hotel that claimed to be Shariah-compliant.

Riyantini has stayed in two Shariah-based hotels in Indonesia and had a good experience with the first one, where she found that hotel staff always greeted guests with the Islamic greeting, had call of prayers blasted from a speaker and provided prayer amenities as well as a Qibla sign in each room.

“The ambiance was very much Islamic and the hotel itself was clean and well-maintained,” she said.

She had a different experience with the second one, despite the Shariah label that goes with the hotel’s name in an online hotel reservation website.

Although they provided a prayer room on each floor, Riyantini said it seemed like it was hastily prepared and a bit spooky, so she and her family chose to pray in their room. Moreover, the hotel was not properly maintained.

“Maybe they consider their hotel to be Shariah-compliant just because they provide a prayer room on each floor and a Qibla sign in the room, yet the overall ambiance hardly felt like it was Muslim-friendly,” she said.

“I learned that not all hotels that claimed to be Shariah-based are really compliant to the value. If we have to stay in such a hotel another time, we will have to consider which hotel chain it is associated with,” she said.

Muslim-friendly travel and tourism in Indonesia continues to rise, with Indonesia named as the number one destination, out of 130 countries, for halal tourism in the world by the Global Muslim Travel Index 2019.

Service providers have been quick to tap into the growing market, despite the controversy and misconceptions about halal tourism in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

According to a survey conducted by accommodation network operator Airy, 60 percent of Indonesian travelers think that it is important to have Shariah-based accommodation. The figure was consistent with data from the Alvara Research Center, which showed that 64 percent of Indonesian millennials travel and go on holiday at least once a year, providing a market of about 26 million holiday-hunting Muslim millennials.

Responding to the market demand, Airy in 2016 began offering a segment called Airy Syariah or a Shariah-based accommodation network.

“Our Airy Syariah properties offer Muslim-friendly accommodation so that guests can stay comfortably and worry-free. The market response has been good and demand for Shariah-based accommodation continues to rise every year. Our occupancy rate so far stands at 40 percent to 70 percent,” Airy vice president for marketing, Ika Paramita, said.

Paramita said Airy cooperates with more than 400 Muslim-friendly properties in some 50 cities across Indonesia and it has been growing at a triple-digit rate year-on-year.

“The food and drinks in our properties are halal-certified, and we provide Muslim-friendly amenities. Guests can immediately experience their stay in our Shariah-based properties, where hotel staff uniforms and attitudes conform to Islamic values. Moreover, we validate the marriage status when a couple is checking in,” Paramita said.

Shariah-compliant accommodation is not new in Indonesia. The Sofyan Hotel chain in Jakarta has implemented the concept in its two properties since 1992 by removing nightclubs, bars and alcoholic drinks from its facilities.

But the concept does not always appeal to all Muslims in Indonesia. University lecturer Ratna Djumala said she prefers to stay in a conventional hotel to show her children about meeting people of various backgrounds.

“I want to show my children about diversity and tolerance, especially this coming December when hotels are adorned with Christmas decorations. I want my kids to experience the ambiance, too. A family-friendly hotel doesn’t always have to be a Shariah-based one. What’s important for me is the food has to be halal,” she said.

Muslim-friendly travel was valued at $189 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reach $274 billion by 2024, according to the State of Global Islamic Economy Report 2019.

The story was first published in Arab News

Push for all things halal divide opinion in Indonesia

After an official suggested that the Lake Toba area on Indonesia’s Sumatra island could be turned into a halal tourism destination, activist Togu Simorangkir came up with the idea of holding a pork festival as an act of resistance.

The event from October 25-26 involved pork cooking and pig catching competitions and was attended by 300,000 people from all over the country, according to Simorangkir.

“It was a big success even though it was just a spontaneous response against making North Sumatra a halal destination,” says Simorangkir, a British-educated activist who founded Alusi Tao Toba, a foundation dedicated to improving the communities around Lake Toba.

“The festival is not about religion, but about maximizing local tourism potential,” he says, adding that most people in the area make a living as farmers.

Muslims are forbidden from eating pork under Islamic rules because the meat is considered unclean.

The Indonesian government established a new halal certification agency under the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2017. Since then, everything from refrigerators and microwaves to cat food can be certified as halal, or religiously permissible.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but is also home to several other religions. About 63 per cent of North Sumatra’s 15 million people are Muslim, but members of the indigenous Batak tribe, to which Simorangkir belongs, are mainly Christian.

Simorangkir says the idea of halal tourism in North Sumatra is divisive.

“I think there’s no need to divide people based on religion,” he says. “Here there are many mosques and people from all over the world come.”

“If they want tourism to thrive here, they should crack down on companies that destroy the environment,” he adds.

Simorangkir says the pork festival was initially opposed by local leaders and tour operators because of fears it would offend Muslims and hurt tourism.

“The word ‘pig’ has negative connotations in our society, when in fact it’s just an animal, like cows and buffaloes,” he says.

Critics fear that halal tourism, intended to attract Muslim visitors from wealthy Middle Eastern countries and all over the world, could mean a ban on alcohol, separate facilities for men and women and other restrictions.

North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi has denied suggestions he wants to turn the Lake Toba area into a sharia-compliant destination.

“It’s a misunderstanding,” he was quoted as saying by Detik.com, adding that he was simply suggesting that infrastructure be improved to serve visitors from Muslim countries such as Malaysia.

“So, when Muslims come to a place, […] there’s halal food,” he said. “Even in Thailand, where Buddhists are the majority, there are halal restaurants.”

The head of the Religious Ministry’s Halal Certification Administering Agency, Sukoso, says food and drinks, cosmetics, drugs and other consumer products will have to be certified halal by 2026 according to a 2014 law.

“As for household goods, it should be determined what materials they are made of,” he says, adding that products made of leather are subject to halal certification to ensure they do not contain materials from pigs.

The country’s first halal certified corrective glasses were launched in early November by PT Atalla Indonesia, according to the state Antara news agency.

“Even though glasses are not yet among products that need to be halal certified, the company has done it. I appreciate the effort,” Industry Ministry official Gati Wibawaningsih said at the launch event.

Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp last year launched what it described as the first line of halal refrigerators in Indonesia.

The company expects sales in the segment to grow between 10 and 20 per cent with the introduction of halal products.

“We want our customers to have peace of mind when using our products,” Sharp Electronics Indonesia sales general manager Andri Adi Utomo said in a statement.

But some Indonesians have questioned why consumer products needs to be certified halal, with many taking to social media to ait their views.

“Now that there are halal glasses, watching porn will no longer be sinful,” one Twitter user joked.

Talk of introducing halal tourism to cater to Muslim visitors in the popular resort island of Bali, a mainly Hindu enclave of Indonesia, has also faced opposition from locals.

Earlier this year, vice presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno sparked controversy after he said he would promote halal tourism in Bali if he and his presidential running mate Prabowo Subianto were elected.

They were defeated by incumbent President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin in the April election.

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster rejected the idea.

“Bali is a cultural tourism destination,” he told local media. “There’s no need for such narrow branding.”

Jerinx, the frontman of popular Bali-based rock band Superman Is Dead, said the concept was irrelevant.

“Bali has always been friendly to Muslims. What the f*** is wrong with you people?” he wrote on Twitter.

Indonesians amused by German firm’s phallic name

A small German corporate management company has become an online sensation in Indonesia for its phallic name. 

The Facebook page of Kontool, which is spelled in a similar way to an Indonesian slang word for penis, kontol, has been flooded with cheeky comments from Indonesians who find the name funny.

Kontool is a trending topic on Indonesian Twitter on Tuesday and news website viva.co.id is running with the headline: “Do you like Kontool? Thank you Indonesia” in a story that also delves into the company’s history.  

“Your company should come to indonesia. I think kontool is very popular here, and I think most people here would love your product,” a Facebook user wrote.

The company said it found out the meaning of the name in the Indonesian language after the viral wave.  

“When we will come with our product to your market… I think we have to find a new name…but first we have to conquer the German market,” it said.

The company’s Facebook page later posted a new slogan for the firm: Bigger and Stronger, and directed Indonesians to a merchandise shop selling t-shirts, cups and bags that it said was created overnight. 

“A lot of people asked about merchandising products of kontool. For you we build up an internet shop overnight. If you love kontool, like we do, you can order a funny t-shirt with ‘I love kontool’.” 

Gojek’s solution to plastic pollution

The Indonesian do-it-all app Gojek is taking steps to tackle the mounting problem of plastic waste, to which it has inadvertently contributed through its hugely popular food delivery service.

Gofood is now available in 74 cities with 400,000 food merchant partners, most of them small and mom-and-pop eateries previously unserved by existing food delivery services. That adds up to a lot of packaging in a country that is already the second-biggest source of plastic waste after China in the world’s oceans.

 

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A scavenger was sorting and collecting plastic bag waste at the top of a garbage mountain in Bantar Gebang landfill in Bekasi, West Java, where tonnes of trash from Jakarta is dumped everyday. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Gojek co-founder Kevin Aluwi, speaking at an event to unveil a new corporate logo last month, said some food merchant partners had begun charging customers for plastic spoons and forks, and some have switched to biodegradable or paper-based container bags, while Gofood itself is ready to do its part.

“Starting this month (July), we are distributing special bags to drivers whose Gofood order volumes are high. The bag can contain a lot of food orders, so there is no need to use plastic bags anymore,” Kevin said, responding to a question about how the company aimed to solve the plastic waste problem.

The anti-waste initiatives are in keeping with the spirit embodied by the new logo, which resembles a simple power-on button and has been dubbed as “Solv”. Gojek is aiming to be Southeast Asia’s super app offering more than 20 on-demand services, including grocery shopping, house cleaning, massage, laundry and vehicle maintenance and repair in a single platform.

That’s in addition to the document delivery and motorcycle ride-hailing services that were the first offerings of the company when it was founded in 2015. Now valued at US$10 billion and offering services from food to finance, Gojek is looking to make itself indispensable to customers.

The food delivery service is now available in Vietnam, where it is the second-biggest player in the segment, and in Thailand, where the company has expanded along with its motorcycle taxis and car-hailing services.

Gojek is now eyeing Singapore where its car drivers may have to handle food deliveries because the city-state doesn’t recognize motorcycle taxis, said Andre Soelistyo, president of the Gojek group.

“Gofood has become the largest food delivery service in Southeast Asia, even larger than similar services in India even though our population is only a quarter of India’s,” he said.

But food delivery apps have become so popular in so many countries that excess use of takeout plastic containers, utensils and packaging has become a major concern.

The Indian restaurant portal Zomato, which has a food delivery service that processes 16.5 million orders a month, is a case in point. Founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal wrote in a September 2018 blog post that an “unintended consequence” of the business was that it had increased the use of more plastic packaging material.

All the food delivery aggregators in India combined process around 35-40 million orders a month, he wrote.

“These many orders add up to 22,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste created every month in India. And whether we intend it or not, quite a lot of it ends up in the ocean,” Deepinder wrote.

The Zomato app now offers consumers an option not to include plastic cutlery in their orders and works with food merchant partners to help them comply.

“Much as we care about delighting our partners and our users, we must also care about the impact we have on our planet,” Deepinder wrote.

Read the full story in Bangkok Post

 

Indonesia’s Muslims urged to ‘go green’ and ditch plastic bags on Eid

 

Screenshot_2019-08-11 Kerajinan Indonesia craftindo on Instagram “Stok besek Size 18 x 18 cm spesial for #besekkurban Ready[...]
Photo: Instagram @kerajinan_handycraft_indonesia
 

Indonesia is urging Muslims to use eco-friendly packaging when distributing sacrificial meat on Eid Al-Adha this year, as the country fights to reduce the amount of plastic waste it produces.

Indonesia is second only to China when it comes to dumping plastic waste in the ocean and, with a Muslim-majority population, the use of plastic bags to package sacrificial meat could lead to tens of thousands of tons of additional waste. Indonesia is estimated to produce an estimated 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, many of which end up in the ocean.

The slaughter of an animal — qurbani — is carried out in remembrance of the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at Allah’s command.

Regional leaders across Indonesia were last month urged by the government to tell people to bring their own reusable containers instead of single-use plastic bags for the sacrificial meat.

“Alternatively, they can replace plastic bags with wrappings from banana or teak leaves, woven bamboo baskets, or other biodegradable or reusable packaging,” an official from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, said in a circular.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said the use of woven bamboo baskets would help to reduce plastic waste and generate additional income for local tradesmen, while Central Jakarta Mayor Bayu Meghantara said his office would distribute 500 woven bamboo baskets to qurbani committees.

Abu Hurairah Abdul Salam, a spokesman for Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta, said the qurbani committee had started using plastic bags made of cassava pulp four years ago.

“But, in accordance with the governor’s instructions, we will be using woven bamboo baskets to distribute qurbani meat this year. We have prepared 5,000 baskets and, if we run out of baskets, we will be using biodegradable cassava plastic bags,” he said.

The mosque slaughtered 30 cows and 20 goats this year.

North Jakarta’s Ancol Dreamland Park will hand out sacrificial meat to the first 100 recipients in woven bamboo baskets, or besek.

“We will wrap the rest of the qurbani meat packages, which on average are up to 5,000, in biodegradable, cassava-based bags. This is one of the many policies that park management has issued to address the waste problem. We have stopped using plastic straws at all vendor stalls,” Ancol spokeswoman Rika Lestari said.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema is backing the nationwide green initiative.

“We can take this Eid moment to start a new habit by using eco-friendly bags and to change our society’s dependence on plastic bags,” council’s fatwa committee official Hasanuddin Abdul Fattah said in a statement.

Read the original story in Arab News

Garuda sues YouTube reviewer over handwritten menu post

 An Indonesian YouTube personality said on Tuesday he had been sued by national airline Garuda over a social media posting about a hand-written business-class menu.

Rius Vernandes, a popular vlogger, posted an Instagram photo showing the menu written on a piece of notebook paper on Saturday with the caption: “The menu is still being printed, sir.”   

The post went viral and prompted Indonesian social media users to mock the airline. 

Rius said he has received a summons from the police in connection with the post.   

“We’ve been reported for defamation. I’m sure you know I had no intention whatsoever to defame anyone,” he said on Instagram. 

“I hope you can support me because I don’t want anyone to be prosecuted for an honest review and constructive criticism,” he said. 

Garuda said the handwritten menu was made by a cabin crew member for personal use and not intended to be handed out to passengers.

Police confirmed that Garuda had filed a defamation case against Rius. 

Garuda came under more criticism on Tuesday after a circular instructing the cabin crew to prohibit passengers from taking photos or videos mid-air circulated on social media. 

The airline later clarified that the directive had been withdrawn, but said that passengers are advised to respect other people’s privacy by not taking their photos.     

“Passengers can take photos for personal use such as selfies as long as they do not inconvenience other passengers,” the company’s spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said in a statement. 

Ada cerita di balik MRT Jakarta

Tidak seperti kota-kota besar lainnya di dunia, Jakarta tidak punya daya tarik khusus yang bisa menjadikannya sebagai tujuan utama bagi para wisatawan asing. Kecuali ada agenda bisnis untuk dilakukan di Jakarta, banyak turis asing yang hanya sempat melihat bandara, sebelum pada akhirnya melanjutkan perjalanan ke kota lain di negara ini.

Kenapa begitu? salah satunya karena kemacetan lalu lintas Jakarta yang sangat terkenal, ditambah jaringan transportasi umum yang membingungkan dan kurang bisa diandalkan. Tidak heran jika hanya sedikit orang asing yang ingin menghabiskan waktunya di Jakarta.

Namun hal tersebut bisa jadi berubah seiring dengan peluncuran MRT pada bulan Maret ini. Sebuah sistem kereta cepat massal pertama yang kehadirannya sudah lama ditunggu-tunggu oleh banyak orang.

Saat dilakukan tes uji coba pada 30 Januari lalu, wartawan diberikan kesempatan untuk mencoba MRT dengan perjalanan bolak-balik antara bundaran Hotel Indonesia di Jakarta Pusat ke Lebak Bulus di Jakarta Selatan. Kereta berjalan tepat waktu selama 30 menit dengan pemberhentian selama 30 detik di stasiun bawah tanah dan stasiun atas yang keseluruhannya berjumlah total 13 stasiun.

“Kami melakukan pengujian dengan skenario keberangkatan terlambat di salah satu halte, serta bagaimana sistem bisa mengejar waktunya supaya semua jadwal kereta akhirnya bisa berjalan normal,” ujar Direktur Utama PT. MRT Jakarta, William Sabandar, dalam perjalanan tersebut.

Pada 25 Januari, pembangunan jalur MRT sudah selesai 99 persen dan perusahaan kemudian menjalankan pengujian secara terintegrasi. Delapan kereta dijalankan secara bersamaan dengan interval 10 menit untuk menguji ketepatan waktu operasi normal, juga untuk memastikan bahwa pintu platform bekerja sesuai dengan keberangkatan dan kedatangan kereta api.

Pada akhir Februari, perusahaan melakukan uji coba penuh bersama dengan simulasi untuk situasi darurat hingga 11 Maret. Uji coba tersebut terbuka untuk partisipasi publik terbatas, sebelum akhirnya layanan penuh perdana diluncurkan pada akhir bulan Maret.

Muhammad Kamaluddin, kepala strategi perusahaan MRT Jakarta mengatakan, selama operasi awal enam kereta latih yang dibangun oleh Nippon Sharyo dan Sumitomo Corp dari Jepang tersebut akan mampu mengangkut hingga maksimum 1.900 penumpang. Jam operasional MRT akan dimulai sejak 5.30 pagi setiap harinya, dengan keberangkatan dari kedua ujung jalur, serta keberangkatan terakhir sampai 10.30 malam.

Terdapat beberapa gerbong kereta yang didedikasikan khusus untuk penyandang disabilitas, dimana gerbong tersebut akan berhenti sangat dekat dengan lift di stasiun. Selain itu, juga akan ada petugas yang ditunjuk secara khusus untuk melayani penumpang wanita di jam-jam sibuk.

“Secara bertahap kita akan meningkatkan jumlah kereta menjadi 14. Kereta akan berjalan dengan kecepatan 30 kilometer per jam untuk perjalanan sejauh 16 kilometer,” tambah Kamaluddin.

Pengerjaan tahap kedua untuk memperluas jalur MRT ke bagian utara kota juga akan segera dimulai, dimana konstruksi diharapkan akan selesai pada 2024 dan operasionalnya akan dimulai pada 2025.

“Kami masih dalam persiapan. Peletakan batu pertama bisa berlangsung kapan saja, tetapi tidak ada yang menghambat atau menunda pembangunan fase kedua, semua berjalan sesuai rencana,” kata William Sabandar.

Fase kedua akan memperpanjang jalur dari bundaran hotel Indonesia ke Kampung Bandan di Jakarta Utara dan setelah selesai akan menjadi jalur lengkap yang terentang dari ujung selatan ke ujung utara Jakarta.

“Kami menetapkan target untuk menyelesaikan proyek tersebut dalam lima tahun,” kata Kamaluddin, sambil menambahkan bahwa delapan stasiun di jalur kedua akan berada di bawah tanah dan beberapa akan diintegrasikan dengan jaringan bus Transjakarta milik pemda DKI. Tapi pembangunan untuk tahap kedua tersebut akan menemui sedikit kesulitan karena harus melewati Monumen Nasional atau daerah Monas, yang disebut sebagai daerah ring satu di Jakarta Pusat, dimana istana presiden dan kantor-kantor pemerintahan berada.

Januar Wibisono, seorang pekerja yang berkantor di salah satu gedung di kawasan bisnis Sudirman-Thamrin di mana jalur MRT beroperasi di bawah tanah, mengatakan dia bersemangat untuk mencoba layanan ini dan berharap MRT akan membuat perjalanan hariannya dari sebuah lokasi di pinggiran selatan Jakarta jauh lebih mudah. ​​

“Gedung kantor saya berada di dekat stasiun Bendungan Hilir. Saya akan memarkir motor saya di dekat stasiun Lebak Bulus dan naik kereta dari sana. Jika total 30 menit hingga akhir jalur, saya perkirakan akan membutuhkan waktu 20 menit untuk sampai ke tujuan saya,” katanya.

Stasiun Bendungan Hilir adalah salah satu dari enam stasiun bawah tanah di area bisnis, yang dimulai dari stasiun Sisingamangaraja. PT MRT Jakarta menawarkan sponsorship untuk hak memberikan nama bagi setiap stasiun sesuai dengan nama asli stasiun, dalam upaya menghasilkan pendapatan diluar tarif. “Tapi stasiun Sisingamangaraja akan menjadi pengecualian. Stasiun itu akan diberi nama Sisingamangaraja Asean untuk menandai gedung Sekretariat Asean di dekat stasiun,” kata Sabandar.

Bersama dengan sistem light rail transit (LRT) yang diperkirakan akan mulai beroperasi tahun ini, diharapkan dapat menggeser orang dari pemakaian kendaraan pribadi ke transportasi umum, sehingga akhirnya dapat mengurangi kemacetan lalu lintas di Jakarta. Di beberapa lokasi, moda transportasi umum akan melintasi jalur stasiun terintegrasi, seperti stasiun Dukuh Atas di Jakarta Pusat, yang terintegrasi dengan kereta api bandara, kereta komuter, dan bus reguler, juga Transjakarta.

Jalan-jalan di Jakarta tersumbat melebihi kapasitas karena terjadi peningkatan pertumbuhan sepeda motor yang dipicu oleh mudahnya mendapatkan kredit motor serta hadirnya aplikasi ojek online. Menurut data dari Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Nasional, kemacetan di Jabodetabek diperkirakan menyebabkan kerugian ekonomi sebesar 100 triliun rupiah per tahun.

Untuk mendukung peralihan ke MRT, pemerintah kota DKI juga telah memperbaiki trotoarnya yang tidak rata agar mendorong lebih banyak pejalan kaki dan memungkinkan penumpang yang keluar dari stasiun berjalan kaki ke tujuan mereka.

Jakarta juga dijuluki sebagai salah satu kota yang paling tidak ramah bagi pejalan kaki. Menurut hasil sebuah studi yang dilakukan oleh Universitas Stanford yang diterbitkan pada tahun 2017, orang Indonesia termasuk dalam kategori pejalan kaki paling malas di dunia dengan rata-rata 3.513 langkah setiap harinya, dibandingkan rata-rata di seluruh dunia, yaitu 5.000 langkah.

“Saya sudah menyerah nyetir mobil kalau bepergian sehari-hari sekitar 15 tahun yang lalu, karena saya benar-benar tidak tahan dengan kemacetan,” kata Rani Cahyawati, seorang karyawan yang bekerja di kantor dekat bundaran Hotel Indonesia.

“Setiap hari saya mengandalkan apa saja yang ada, baik itu bus kotor, bus tua, bus Transjakarta, taksi, atau ojek. Jadi, saya benar-benar menantikan MRT dan LRT untuk beroperasi. Sudah waktunya bagi Jakarta untuk dimodernisasi dan lebih beradab bagi masyarakat dan pengunjungnya,” tambahnya.

*Pertama kali diterbitkan dalam versi bahasa Inggris di Bangkok Post