Indonesia is looking to make inroads into Saudi Arabia’s herbal drug market following its first export of jamu, a traditional medicine, to the Kingdom last week, officials said.
Sido Muncul, a publicly listed herbal producer, shipped a container of jamu — a slow-brewed herbal tonic containing turmeric, ginger, curcuma and other herbs — to the Kingdom on Aug. 10.
The shipment is worth nearly $100,000, company CEO Irwan Hidayat said.
Jamu in its liquid form is the go-to drink for many Indonesians, who value it for its medicinal properties.
Hidayat said that the company has previously shipped Tolak Angin — an over-the-counter tonic comprising ginger, clove, fennel fruit, mint and honey — to Indonesian stores in the Kingdom.
“But this shipment marked our first official export as our product has been approved by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and the product labeling is written in Arabic. It will be distributed by our local importer partner and sold by major retailers,” he said.
The term “tolak angin” means repelling the wind and is the antonym of “masuk angin” or catching the wind. Masuk angin is used by Indonesians to describe how they feel when suffering from any of the various symptoms of the flu.
Hidayat said Sido Muncul is looking to secure a distribution license for a more significant market share in the Kingdom.
“We are planning to submit more of our products for registration to the Saudi FDA. It would be good for us if we can get the SFDA’s license for distribution as it will increase our chances of securing the local consumers’ trust,” he said.
While the main consumer target will be Indonesians living in the Kingdom, Tolak Angin is already a favorite among Saudis, according to its distributor.
Kasan Muhri, trade ministry director-general for national export development said that Saudi Arabia is a “captive market” for Indonesian jamu products given the potential number of Indonesians living in the country and visiting for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage.
Indonesia has the world’s largest annual Hajj quota, with 221,000 pilgrims with nearly 1 million Indonesians visiting the Kingdom every year to perform Umrah.
“We also aim for Filipinos and other Southeast Asians, who have similar consumer behavior to Indonesians and are no strangers to herbal medicine,” Muhri said.
Sido Muncul’s first export of jamu is based on a trade deal forged with Mizanain Marketing and Trading, a Saudi Arabian distributor, during the 2019 Trade Expo Indonesia held outside Jakarta in October last year.
Muhri said the ministry is optimistic the exports will spur Indonesia’s biopharmaceutical and food sectors’ efforts to penetrate the global market, despite restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
According to Muhri, this is also a notable move for Indonesia’s trade to Saudi Arabia since the biopharmaceutical and food and beverage sectors are exempted from the Kingdom’s recent tariff increase on 500 varieties of products. Data from Statistics Indonesia showed that exports of biopharmaceutical products increased to $4.2 million or 32.8 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year — a favorable outcome despite the decline in purchasing power globally.
Indonesia will remain closed to foreign tourists at least until the end of the year, Indonesian officials said during recent online forums.
As the country still grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the government is not taking the risk to create new clusters with foreign tourist arrivals and to compromise its coronavirus control efforts, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir said on Saturday.
“For the time being, we are still evaluating the reopening to foreign tourists,” said Thohir, who also chairs the national committee to accelerate economic recovery and COVID-19 mitigation during an online discussion.
Earlier on Thursday, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan said during an online meeting with the country’s business community that all non-essential foreign visitors will remain barred from entering the country, while the government will try to boost domestic tourism to keep the hospitality sector afloat.
“With regard to foreign tourists, I think we will not be welcoming them until the end of the year,” Pandjaitan said, shelving a plan laid out by the provincial government of the holiday island of Bali — Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination — to reopen for international visitors on Sept. 11.
Bali reopened its tourism spots to locals on the island on July 9 and started welcoming back domestic tourists from other parts of Indonesia on July 31.
According to an analysis issued in June based on the extraction of data location of 208,362 Instagram posts with hashtag #TakeMeBack, travelers revealed that Bali ranked second – with the Giza pyramid complex in Egypt ranked first – as the destination that they missed the most in the absence of traveling during the pandemic.
Dutch online reservation company Booking.com in May placed Bali among the top international destinations alongside Andalusia, Florida, London, and Paris that travelers around the world put on their wish list, based on a survey conducted on its platform in April and March to users grounded by lockdowns and international travel restrictions.
Pandjaitan’s remarks also ended speculation as to whether the central government would revoke a regulation issued by the justice minister in late March banning foreigners — except those arriving for essential, diplomatic and official purposes — from entering Indonesia amid ongoing efforts to contain the virus outbreak.
Bali authorities were hoping for the regulation to be revoked ahead of the island’s plan to reopen to foreigners.
Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, head of the Bali Tourism Board, said industry players in Bali were ready for the Sept. 11 plan but acknowledged that the central government’s decision to keep foreign arrivals suspended “must be based on a more urgent reason.”
“There could be a macro outlook behind Jakarta’s decision, and it could be for everyone’s greater good,” Adnyana said.
According to Pandjaitan, Indonesian authorities will focus on promoting domestic tourism as Indonesians who were planning to go for holidays abroad, including those who were set to travel for Umrah, will be unable to do so this year so due to international travel restrictions.
“There is plenty of money around. No one is going on the Umrah pilgrimage, and those who used to go to Singapore or Penang for medical treatment are not going anywhere either. These are people with money to spend, and we estimated there could be tens of trillions of rupiahs. We want them to spend the money here,” Pandjaitan said.
According to Umrah tour operators, about 1 million Indonesians travel to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage each year, with many of them also visiting other sites in the region.
The COVID-19 outbreak has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to its national revenue.
According to Adnyana, tourism in Bali alone contributed 120 trillion to 150 trillion rupiahs ($10 billion) a year to the country’s coffers.
He also expressed concerns that the pandemic may still affect the government’s plans to revive the industry through domestic tourism as many potential travelers may be unable to make trips to other parts of the country amid concerns of contracting the disease and internal restrictions imposed as part of the response to contain the virus.
On Friday, President Joko Widodo said in his 2021 budget speech before the parliament that 14.4 trillion rupiahs would be allocated for the tourism industry’s recovery with a focus on developing several main destinations: Lake Toba in North Sumatra; Borobudur Temple in Central Java; Mandalika in Lombok island; Labuan Bajo on the Flores island, which serves as a gateway to see the Komodo dragon on Komodo Island and Mount Kelimutu, which has three volcanic crater lakes of different colors; and Likupang Beach in North Sulawesi.
This story has been updated from its original in Arab News
As Indonesia faces the health implications of a surge in coronavirus cases, the country’s Hajj and Umrah tour operators have been particularly badly affected by the economic fallout from the global pandemic.
After authorities in Saudi Arabia announced that only a few thousand pilgrims who reside in the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Hajj this year, it is feared that up to 60 percent of Indonesia’s tour operators might be forced to close for good.
“The majority of Hajj and Umrah tour operators have put their employees on furlough in the absence of travel activities,” said Muharom Ahmad, secretary of the Indonesian Haj and Umrah Tour Operators Society (Forum SATHU).
“The remaining 40 percent have managed to stay afloat because they have other branches of business that can continue to thrive during the pandemic, such as food and beverages, or education.”
The group is a forum for five Hajj and Umrah tour-operators’ associations, including Ahmad’s Indonesian Association of Haj and Umrah Private Operators (Himpuh). The forum represents more than 1,300 businesses in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. All of them are accredited by the nation’s Ministry of Religious Affairs.
The Indonesian government announced the cancellation of pilgrimages on June 2. Ahmad estimates that the suspension of Hajj and Umrah travel for a year could cost tour operators about 32 trillion rupiahs ($2.2 billion).
“Those revenues would have been trickling down to our vendors and partners, such as airlines, hotels, caterers, and suppliers of pilgrims’ clothing and travel amenities,” he said.
Since March, he added, the majority of tour operators had been unable to keep their businesses running, except to process refunds.
“Even those that diversified their businesses to include food and beverages face steep competition in a market that is already saturated since that seems to be the business that everyone is turning to at this moment,” said Ahmad.
On July 14, Airlangga Hartarto, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, revealed that the food and beverage industry is one of the few sectors to record growth during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati announced that the government has allocated 695 trillion rupiahs to an economic-recovery package.
Ahmad said the pandemic is not the only reason tour operators are going out of business; the increasing popularity of online, do-it-yourself Umrah packages is another factor, as they allow pilgrims to visit Saudi Arabia and perform Umrah on a tourist visa, with no need to enlist the help of a tour operator.
In each of the past two years, an average of 1 million Indonesian pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia for Umrah, and the country had the largest Hajj quota in the world this year, amounting to 221,000 pilgrims. Of those 17,680 were “special pilgrims,” who use private Hajj and Umrah tour operators.
Ahmad, who has been in the tour business since 2005, said about 30 percent of the Hajj pilgrims registered with his company had canceled their plans completely. The rest agreed to postpone their trips until next year after the Ministry of Religious Affairs announced that those who had paid in full to attend Hajj this year would be placed on a priority list for 2021.
“We still managed to have about 200 Umrah pilgrims depart earlier this year before everything stopped,” he said, adding that he has no idea when pilgrimages will resume.
“Some of us, with a pessimistic view, estimate that the soonest we could be back in business is by March next year. Everything is so uncertain that it is difficult to make any business plans at the moment.”
Eid Al-Adha festivities in Indonesia could generate 20.5 trillion rupiahs ($1.4 billion) this year, based on purchases made by an estimated 2.3 million families for the annual sacrifice.
The Qurbani could involve about 117 tonnes of sacrificed meat, offering a chance to increase the country’s low beef consumption and address its malnutrition problem, if officials can address unequal meat distribution, according to a June study by the Institute for Demographic and Poverty Studies.
The study found that the middle-upper class Muslim families of the country is 9 percent, or 5.6 million of the 62.4 million total Muslim families of the world’s largest predominantly Muslim country.
“Out of those in the middle-upper class bracket, we estimated 40 percent would buy a Qurbani cattle, based on a conservative assumption that one family would donate just one cattle, either a cow or a goat, given the economic slowdown from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Askar Muhammad, a researcher at the Jakarta-based think tank.
However, about 71 percent of those families are concentrated in the capital Jakarta and other cities in Java, Indonesia’s most populated island, causing concern that there could be a surplus of sacrificed meat in some areas, also in Muslim-minority regions, such as on Papua island, where there are not enough beneficiaries.
Muhammad said a scheme is needed to help beneficiaries in remote areas of Java and other islands access sacrificed meat for the festival.
“For most beneficiaries, this could be the only time of the year when they have the opportunity to consume meat,” he said.
He said: “This is also a good window for us to improve public health and nutrition levels, considering that our average meat consumption is low.”
Indonesia’s beef and sheep meat consumption stands at an annual 2.4 kg per capita, well below the global average of 8.1 kg, according to 2019 data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“Most beneficiaries also do not have the means to preserve fresh meat for later consumption and cooking the meat would require extra costs. The meat could also spoil during the distribution process to regions where beneficiaries are concentrated,” said Ali Nurhasan, head of the Qurbani committee at Muslim charity Rumah Zakat.
Nurhasan said the group has been tackling the problem since 2003 by distributing donated sacrificed meat as canned and corned beef or rendang, a West Sumatran specialty dish of slow-cooked beef.
“Our priority is to distribute the cans to beneficiaries in areas where donators are, but we also set aside cans as a national stock for distribution to remote areas and survivors of disasters, such as the recent flash floods in Masamba,” Nurhasan said, referring to the July 13 flash floods which struck in South Sulawesi province, killing 38 people and displacing more than 14,000.
In 2019, the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa, which allowed the preservation of sacrificed meat in cooked and canned form for later use.
The days leading up to the Eid al-Adha festival, which this year fell on July 31, were usually the busiest days of the year for Bintang Tani Madani, a cow breeder in Bogor on the outskirts of Jakarta.
The company specializes in breeding sacrificial cows, also known as qurban, for the Muslim festivities, but the Covid-19 pandemic has put a strain on the business. Sales have plunged as consumer purchasing power is severely affected, he says.
The annual feast of sacrifice obliges Muslims with the financial means to buy prime and healthy livestock and to slaughter them in accordance with Islamic protocols. The meat is then distributed to the needy.
“Sales have dropped significantly. Sacrificial cow traders have seen less than 50% of last year’s sales. We also faced competition from seasonal traders who set up temporary shops in city centers, so there was an oversupply, while the demand had weakened,” said Muhammad Arif, a manager at Bintang Tani Madani.
“[Breeders] were expecting to see a rebound in sales during this season since they lost the momentum to generate business during the end of Ramadan festivities when there was little demand for meat because we had large-scale social restrictions at the time.”
The global economic turmoil caused by the pandemic has had a severe impact on Indonesia, with most Indonesians experiencing income losses, the World Bank said in its latest Indonesia Economic Prospects report released on July 16 in Jakarta.
Mobility restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus, and caution among consumers worried about their financial prospects, have led to a freeze in tourism and empty shops and restaurants. The country’s economic growth is projected to fall to zero this year, the report said.
By some standards that would not be a bad performance, given that dozens of countries are resigned to a contraction in the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020.
But Indonesia could easily end up in the red if the government has to reimpose large-scale social restrictions to combat a new wave of Covid-19, cautioned Frederico Gil Sander, lead economist with the World Bank office in Indonesia.
“We think that the economy could contract by two percent in 2020,” Sander said.
Jakarta administration has extended the transitional period of its large-scale social restrictions for another two weeks until August 13, Governor Anies Baswedan announced on Friday.
The city has seen a surge in new cases, including in at least 90 workplaces which have emerged as new infection clusters as more employees have resumed working in offices despite city regulation that during the transitional period, workplaces have to slash by half their employees’ presence in the office.
“We will impose a progressive fine for businesses and could eventually close the establishment that repeatedly violates the health protocol,” Baswedan said.
To deter people’s unnecessary mobility, the city administration started on Monday to reimpose the odd-even license plate policy as a form of its “emergency brake” to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Jakarta remains one of the infection hotspots in the country with 22,616 cases as of August 3 and its positive virus test rate is 6.5% of all tests results, well above the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines which suggest a 5% positive rate as the maximum benchmark for policymakers seeking to resume economic activity.
A key finding the World Bank report suggested that to support a safe reopening of the economy, having a robust health system remains the priority. A safe sustainable reopening requires continued improvements in health system capacity and readiness, including continued expansion of testing and surveillance.
To date, Indonesia has tested 841,027 people in a population of 267 million. According to the WHO in its weekly situation report on Covid-19 in Indonesia, Jakarta is the only province that has achieved the minimum case detection benchmark, or comprehensive surveillance and testing of suspected cases, of 1 per 1,000 population per week.
In any case, the business community appears eager to get on with normal life again, according to a survey conducted by the Jakarta-based pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia and released on July 23.
Despite the escalating number of cases and widespread infections, 65.1% of the 1,176 respondents are not in favor of the government reinstating mobility restrictions, although 84.7% of them remain “very concerned” about the outbreak, the pollsters found.
The respondents included businesspeople from micro-enterprises to big corporations in seven sectors across nine provinces.
“About 53.3% of the respondents prefer the government to prioritize handling the economic sector over the health sector, while 89.4% agreed with the government’s initiative to introduce adaptation to new habits,” Indikator executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi said at a briefing.
The government has announced a fiscal package amounting to 4.3% of GDP in response to the crisis, which includes funds to improve the preparedness of the health sector and a substantial increase in social assistance.
Without a significant expansion of social assistance, according to the World Bank report, roughly 5.5 million Indonesians could fall into poverty because of the economic halt triggered by the pandemic. The stimulus package could go a long way to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on poverty if fully disbursed and well-targeted, it said.
“It is essential that the package be effectively implemented to have the fullest impact on the people and the economy,” said Satu Kahkonen, the World Bank country director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
The story has been updated from its original version in Bangkok Post
Indonesia and the UAE on Thursday announced the creation of a temporary travel corridor to allow business and diplomatic trips to take place in relation to one of the southeast Asian country’s biggest investment deals.
The agreement was reached by Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi and her Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, on Wednesday evening.
During a visit to Abu Dhabi in January, Indonesian President Joko Widodo secured energy, infrastructure, and agriculture investments worth $22.9 billion in what has officially been described as the biggest trade deal in the country’s history.
“The safe travel corridor arrangement between Indonesia and the UAE is now in effect,” Marsudi said during a virtual press briefing. The minister added that travel would be allowed for essential businesspeople, government officials, and diplomats, in accordance with strict pre-departure and post-arrival health protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The UAE Ambassador to Indonesia, Abdullah Salem Obeid Al-Dhaheri, who also attended the media conference, said the Indonesian and UAE governments had felt it an urgent priority to provide an avenue for cooperation, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In this regard, the two countries agreed to establish a bilateral temporary agreement to facilitate the easing of travel for business, economy, as well as diplomatic and official purposes,” he added.
Al-Dhaheri pointed out that the arrangement would not undermine mandatory public health and quarantine protocols related to the COVID-19 situation in both countries. He noted that through regular assessment and consultation with relevant stakeholders, the travel corridor might later be expanded to include tourists.
Achmad Rizal Purnama, director of Middle East affairs at Indonesia’s foreign ministry, said the travel corridor arrangement, a first for both countries, reflected the growing “trust and confidence” that had developed between the two nations following Widodo’s Abu Dhabi trip and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan’s visit to Indonesia in July 2019.
The agreement would exempt travelers from the mandatory two-week quarantine, Purnama said, but they would be required to have a negative result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 taken within 72 hours before departure.
“The arrangement is about ensuring that the travelers are in good health. We don’t want this pandemic to impede us in following up on the various agreements reached during the January visit and let the projects stall, which we hope would spur our economic recovery efforts,” he said.
The UAE had committed to investing $6.8 billion out of the total agreed spending package into Indonesia’s energy, logistics, port construction, mining, and agriculture sectors.
Widodo’s delegation also secured the Gulf state’s commitment to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund, into which the UAE, the US International Development Finance Corporation, and Japan’s SoftBank would inject funding.
The fund would be used partly to finance the relocation of Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo, which has been estimated will cost $33 billion of which Indonesia has said it could only afford 19 percent.
Conservationists on Tuesday slammed a decision by the Indonesian government to allow a mining contractor company to build a road through a restoration forest in South Sumatra.
Critics claim the project could damage the sensitive ecosystem and threaten the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, the only tiger subspecies left in the country after two other subspecies became extinct in Java and Bali.
“This is contradictory to the government’s said commitment to restore forests and rehabilitate the ecosystem, that could serve as the natural habitat for wild species and a top predator such as the Sumatran tiger,” Yoan Dinata, a member of Forum Harimau Kita (Our Tiger Forum), in Jambi, said.
Once completed, the road would cut across the Harapan rainforest, a 98,555-hectare wildlife haven in South Sumatra and Jambi provinces managed by Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) as the concession holder.
The forest is the first ecosystem restoration concession in Indonesia based on a collaboration led by Burung Indonesia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and BirdLife International.
Dinata said the existing road network built by companies managing various concessions in nearby industrial forests had already put a barrier between conservation areas inhabited by tigers.
Opening the forest for a road project could escalate human-tiger conflicts in Sumatra, he added, as tigers often entered human settlements in search of food as a result of deforestation and habitat loss.
“Forest restoration is also aimed to increase the tiger’s population. If their natural habitat is shrinking, they would not be able to breed, and we would not be able to increase their population.”
There were at least 20 tigers in the Harapan forest based on a 2015 research, according to REKI data. But camera traps installed inside the forest, which represents 20 percent of the remaining lowland forest in Sumatra, have captured tiger sightings over the years.
Hospita Yulima, REKI’s spokeswoman, told Arab News that the company so far never received formal notification from the Forestry Ministry that they had permitted the coal transport company to build a road that cuts through their concession, allowing the company to use 424 hectares of land in the forest, on which some parts of the coal road project would be constructed.
The designated areas are part of the Asian elephants’ track and the tigers’ home roaming range.
“If this permit is really issued, it is difficult for us to say that the forestry ministry supports the Harapan forest restoration.”
Arab News tried to contact the ministry for confirmation but failed to receive a response in time. Meanwhile, Diki Kurniawan, a director at the Jambi chapter of the Environmental Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHL) said that activists had urged the company to use an existing road network that goes around the forest or has been constructed by other firms in the area.
“They could negotiate with those companies to use the road, instead of opening the forest just to construct their own road,” he said. The forest is also home to an indigenous, semi-nomad community, the Batin Sembilan, who have made the forest their home for centuries.
Although some members of the community have settled in permanent dwellings inside the forest, they still rely on the forest for their livelihood by harvesting non-wood produce such as honey, resin gum, or rattan. Kurniawan said the YLBHL and 36 other civil society organizations that formed a coalition called South Sumatra-Jambi Anti Forest Destruction to reject the plan is mulling over assisting the indigenous tribe – as the party directly impacted by the project – to challenge the ministry’s decision through a legal channel.
“The road project could open access to poachers and illegal logging. We have seen from previous practices that companies that open the forests could not prevent the forest from the devastating impact,” Kurniawan said.
Indonesia is bracing for a new normal in the tourism industry as it lays the groundwork for a post-Covid revival by next year.
“In the future, we will focus on some issues that really matter in order to anticipate new tourism trends and paradigms, or the ‘new normal’, where people would be more concerned, for example, with sanitation and hygiene issues,” said Wishnutama Kusubandio, the tourism and creative economy minister.
“It would also include improving technological and digital approaches to tourism services and the creative economy.”
How tourism sites implement social and physical distancing measures will be a big part of the future direction, he said.
So too will digital platforms as a key part of the travel and tourism ecosystem where buyers and sellers meet, he added.
Bali, the country’s most popular destination, is hoping to start welcoming some domestic visitors back as early as June, but traveler profiles will be different, according to Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, head of the Bali Tourism Board.
“Our market will change. There will be few big groups and more families traveling together,” he said. “We will adopt new protocols in various aspects and we will focus first on domestic tourists, at least until the end of the year.”
Based on 2019 data provided by the travel portals Agoda and Traveloka, domestic tourists accounted for 60% of all the arrivals to the island.
“We will gradually focus on regional clients such as from Singapore and other neighboring countries, and move on to the wider Asian region such as China, but this will depend on whether international travel restrictions are lifted,” said Mr. Adnyana.
Despite the high influx of foreigners on the island in January and various direct flights from China including from Wuhan where the pandemic originated, Bali has accounted for only less than 2% of the national caseload of Covid-19 infections, with 407 cases of infections out of 23,165 and four confirmed deaths of out 1,418 nationwide as per May 26.
The number of foreign tourist arrivals nationwide in March dropped by 45.5% from February and was down by 64% from March last year, according to Statistics Indonesia.
The cumulative decline from January to March was 2.61 million arrivals or 30.6%, Mr. Kusubandio said, adding that revenue generated from the industry could drop by more than 50% from the US$20 billion forecast earlier.
Mr. Adnyana said tourism revenue in Bali last year was 9.35 trillion rupiah (US$630 million), or 55% of the national total.
Indonesia has been working to make tourism a core economic driver within five years, with a revenue contribution on par with that of the palm oil sector. It had set a target of 17 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2020 but the outbreak has left that plan in tatters.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani said the pandemic had put Indonesian airlines under “tremendous pressure” with 12,703 domestic and international flight cancellations in January and February. The number of flights operating in the country plummeted from around 79,000 in pre-pandemic times to only around 70 now.
“The airline industry lost 207 billion rupiah ($13 million) in revenue in January and February,” Ms. Mulyani said during a virtual meeting with lawmakers overseeing financial affairs on May 4.
Jakarta-based Statqo Analytics, in an analysis of web traffic in March, estimated the national aviation industry experienced a 44% drop, based on traffic on airline websites, while tourism and hospitality sites had a 55% decrease in their activities.
The airline analysis showed that Batik Air and budget carriers Citilink and Lion Air experienced significant drops, while the flag carrier Garuda Indonesia remained stable throughout March.
This suggested that middle- and upper-income earners who are the main group of Garuda flyers were still mobile despite the pandemic. They also had the financial means to fly to safer zones and escape from Jakarta, the Covid-19 epicenter, or because other airlines had reduced their flights.
According to the analytics, Traveloka experienced a 60% drop in website traffic in March, with similar decreases evident in similar sites such as Tiket.com, Trivago, Pegipegi and Nusatrip.com.
“This would have a direct impact on other businesses related to tourism and hospitality such as car rental, food and beverages, travel services and souvenir shops,” said a report by Statqo.
Dionisius Nathanael, the chief marketing officer of Traveloka, acknowledged that the tourism sector has been profoundly affected.
“The potent combination of trip cancellations and travel restrictions on international flights has had a staggering impact on the industry,” he said in an emailed response to Asia Focus.
At the same time, he said, the all-you-can-find travel services app had been facing a significant increase in assistance requests — up to 10 times higher than in normal times.
Mr. Nathanael said Traveloka had been refocusing its efforts to meet the shifting needs of users, whose main priority now is to stay safe. This has resulted in changes to travel plans and high demand for refunds and rescheduling requests.
Internally, he added, the company has been strengthening its customer care team and improving its back-end system, as well as working closely with partners in order to accommodate requests from users affected by the travel collapse.
“The safety of our users has always been our main priority, especially during this challenging situation. Therefore, we encourage users to carefully plan their travel itinerary and follow the latest information announced by the government or relevant institutions, such as WHO, if they still have to travel during this period,” he said.
Traveloka declined to confirm news reports that it had laid off a number of staff.
The Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) said that as of April 13, 1,642 member hotels had been closed across the country with thousands of workers furloughed, while millions of others in sectors related to tourism are jobless.
Statqo undertook further analysis based on social media platforms, online forums and news websites with a focus on three main keywords: “PHK” or the Indonesian acronym for work termination, dirumahkan or being furloughed, and “bankrupt”. It indicated that the number of people who are out of jobs as a result of the outbreak was increasing.
PHK was used a lot in online exchanges, although searches related to furloughs were more common in Bali.
“We predict that this is due to the characteristic of tourism and hospitality industry in Bali,” Statqo said. “There seemed to be optimism that after the outbreak is over, the industry would revive and they could get their employees back to work without having to terminate their employment.”
Indonesia extended the partial lockdown of its second-largest city Surabaya and the two neighbouring administrative regencies of Sidoarjo and Gresik, in East Java province, as new infections and deaths spiked at the weekend.
East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa said on Sunday that the decision was taken following a review of the Covid-19 growth rate and consultations with epidemiologists.
“After evaluation on the first phase of enforcing the large-scale social restriction, we agreed to extend the restrictions in Surabaya, Gresik and Sidoarjo,” Parawansa said in a statement.
The first phase of partial lockdown in the three regions had been set to end on May 11. It is now due to expire on May 25.
The governor said authorities would more strictly enforce the anti-virus restrictions – including stringent social distancing measures and bans on events and other social gatherings – in place during this second phase.
Achmad Yurianto, the spokesman for the national Covid-19 task force, said on Sunday that the national caseload in Indonesia rose to 14,032 with 387 new confirmed infections.
Out of the total national tally, 1,502 are in East Java where the death toll rose to 143 and 83 new cases were recorded, surpassing West Java as the second-most infected province after Jakarta, where more than 5,000 infections were found.
East Java found new clusters of Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks, including in a Surabaya plant owned by Indonesia’s largest tobacco company, HM Sampoerna, where two workers died of infection and dozens of others tested positive.
Parawansa also said the provincial administration is seeking approval from the Health Ministry to impose the large-scale social restrictions in the greater Malang area, which consists of Malang and Batu municipalities and Malang regency, after assessment from epidemiologists at Airlangga University showed new infection cases have spiked in the area.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.