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Indonesia Tourism Battles Back from Disaster

Following the May 27th 6.2 magnitude earthquake in the Bantul region of Indonesia and further disruptions in tourism after the volcanic eruptions of Mt. Merapi, the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Tourism formed the Java Media-Crisis Center. Under the patronage of the Ministry’s leader, Mr. Jero Wacik, the information center pools the resources of public and private tourism organizations, NGOs, and government agencies together to assist in the relief, rehabilitation, and recovery of Yogyakarta and protect the province’s tourism industry. (1)

As the immediacy of the disaster fades and relief teams begin to leave the scene, the Center’s website draws focus to the situation, asks for local and international support, and offers updates on the status of affected areas for those planning to visit.

The crisis center estimates a total loss of 1 billion dollars to the tourism sector—a report by The New York Times noted that tourism is only second to agriculture as a source of income, and tourism accounts for approximately 20 percent of revenue. The affected Yogyakarta Province is the most popular destination in Indonesia after Bali. (2)

Many of the villages that produce crafts purchased by tourists, as well as recreation, shopping, and educational facilities, were destroyed in the earthquake,. Flights to the region were also affected because the runway at the closest airport was cracked, though the center has since declared the damage repaired.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently committed itself to the recovery effort by sending a support mission to Indonesia and reported that visit cancellations were “running at about 66%,”
though other reports indicated that many tourists have postponed trips rather than cancelled them, which would be good news for the industry. (3)

Overall, the Ministry is optimistic about tourism in Yogyakarta. Some even believe the earthquake will draw tourists to the area, as there is the potential for a kind of “adventure tourism,” and many are interested in exploring the active volcano and fault lines.

In addition to the group of mostly tourism-related organizations, the Indonesian government seems to be playing a role in the relief effort as well. Mr. Wacik announced the government will subsidize loans to businesses affected by the earthquake and provide tax incentives for hotels and tourist agencies in need.

1 www.javacrisismediacenter.com/content.php?id=4&lang_ver=eng
2 nytimes.com/2006/06/06/world/asia/06indo.html?fta=y
3 www.traveldailynews.com/new.asp?newid=30159&subcategory_id=109

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