Category: Business

Something to celebrate

The Indonesian government has added another cultural event of its ethnic Chinese community to its official list of top attractions in a bid to lure more domestic and international tourists.

Chap Goh Mei marks the end of the Chinese New Year period, and the most lavish celebrations take place in Singkawang, a coastal town of roughly 240,000 in West Kalimantan on Borneo. About 40% of the town’s residents are of Chinese descent, but the celebration itself is a fusion of Chinese, indigenous Dayak and Malay cultures, laden with mysticism and supernatural power.

The highlight of the annual festival is the parade featuring Tatung, or people who are believed to have supernatural powers because they are possessed by the spirits of their ancestors or deities.

Dressed in the colorful garb traditional Chinese and Dayak warriors, more than 800 Tatungs from Singkawang and neighboring towns, as well as from Malaysia and Australia, thronged the town’s main streets on the last day of the celebration on Feb 8.

Spectators lining the parade route watched in awe as marchers demonstrated their supernatural abilities by having their faces and bodies pierced with sharp metal objects. Some were hoisted wooden chairs, but instead of soft upholstery, the seat, backrest, and armrest contain rows of sharp blades and arrows.

“We are proud that Chap Goh Mei in Singkawang is included again in the tourism ministry’s annual top 100 calendar of events, and has become one of the top festival destinations for tourists,” Mayor of Singkawang, Tjhai Chui Mie said prior to the parade.

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A Tatung stepped on a blade as he was hoisted on a chair with arrows of sharp blades and passed by the main podium during the annual Tatung parade in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, on Feb 8, 2020. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

The annual parade was the culmination of two weeks festivities that started on Jan 23. It has become the main attraction to spur economic growth in Singkawang, through the development in the real sector, the mayor added.

Last year’s festivities attracted 76,964 foreign and domestic tourists, an increase from about 70,000 in 2018, according to the ministry.

Sutarmidji, governor of West Kalimantan, acknowledged the festivities were the biggest tourism event in the province.

“When I was the mayor of Pontianak, I did not allow the Tatung parade to be held during the city’s Chap Goh Mei celebration so that it would remain the main attraction for Singkawang,” he said.

“Pontianak can have the longest dragon dance, but the Tatung parade should be the focus of Singkawang’s Chap Goh Mei.”

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Dressed as a Dayak warrior, a Tatung made his way to Tri Dharma Bumi Raya temple to pay respect during the road cleansing ritual on Feb 7, 2020, in Singkawang, West Kalimantan. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Dian Halidi, a tourist from Sumbawa Besar, the main city on Sumba Island in central Indonesia, said he had come to the festivities because he was curious to see the Tatung parade in person.

“I came here just by myself and this is my first time in Singkawang. It turned out the Chap Goh Mei here is really amazing and as spectacular as I have been seeing on television.”

Hotels and homestays in the city were fully booked ahead of the parade, wit room rates as much four times higher than they normally are. Some tour operators even had to book the rooms for their clients a year in advance.

However, concern about the coronavirus in recent weeks led to some people having second thoughts about traveling, although Indonesia officially has reported no cases of infection yet.

Hotel occupancy and visitor numbers slipped as a result, although Daniel, a manager of a homestay in Central Singkawang, said the rooms in his establishment were fully booked for the festivities.

“But reservations and confirmations were slow and occurred at the last minute,” he said.

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The Dragon statue, one of Singkawang’s landmarks, was adorned with red lanterns during the city’s Chap Goh Mei celebrations in the West Kalimantan town. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Hellen Chia, who comes from a family of Tatung and whose siblings are Tatungs from the Tho Fab Kiung temple took part in the parade, said that this year’s crowds of spectators were smaller compared to last year.

Dewi Virtana, a tour leader from a tour operator in Surabaya, East Java, said her company took just one group of 31 tourists to Singkawang this year, compared with three groups last year.

“I think it was mainly due to the rising prices of plane tickets, instead of the coronavirus,” she said.

But another tour operator based in Pontianak, Sentosa Tour, reported a small upturn this year. One of its tour leaders, Willy, said the company had about 200 guests this year, compared to 180 last year.

“We see the number of clients increase every year, he said. “Ninety percent of our clients are domestic, from other big cities in the country, and we also had a few foreign visitors from Japan and Australia who booked our private tours.”

In a bid to attract more tourists to the city, which is about four-hour drive from Pontianak, Mayor Thjai said the city has allocated and cleared an area of 151.45 hectares to build an airport and is seeking to develop it under a public-private partnership.

According to the transport ministry, the first phase of the airport will have a 1,400-metre runway that could accommodate ATR aircraft. A 2,600-metre runway that would allow a Boeing 737 to land could be developed in the future.

A day before the parade, the Tatung also toured the city performing a road cleansing ritual to ward off bad spirits. They also paid respects to their ancestors and deities by visiting various temples and houses of worships, or cetiya, scattered around Singkawang, which is known as the city of a thousand temples.

Jelangkung Datuk Suleiman
Rattan dolls from the Hok Lo Nam temple believed to have been possessed by the spirits of their ancestors and deities were brought to pay respect to the sea goddess in the century-old House of Tjhia in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, on Feb 7, 2020. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

An entourage from the Hok Lo Nam temple also took part in the ritual. Carrying five dolls made of rattan and dressed in colorful Chinese costumes, the entourage visited a cetiya at a century-old mansion belonging to the Thjia clan in the city center, to pay their respect to the sea goddess to which the cetiya is dedicated.

The dolls were believed to have been possessed by the spirits of their ancestors and deities, as well as a local Malay elder identified as Datuk Suleiman.

More cities in the country with a large population of Chinese descent have been making Chap Goh Mei, or the 15th day of the Chinese new year an annual celebration. They include Jakarta, Palembang in South Sumatra, Bali, and Bogor in West Java.

Bogor celebrated in style this year, with organizers buoyed by the tourism ministry’s decision to place the festival on its official calendar of events.

The West Java provincial administration has even disbursed 30 billion rupiahs to revamp Suryakencana Street, the main street where the annual Chap Goh Mei parade is held in Bogor, 55 kilometers south of Jakarta.

“This is a show of support from the provincial administration,” West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said.

The story was first published in Bangkok Post

Indonesia taps into Muslim tourist market with Shariah hotels

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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.