Recognising the importance of Singapore both as an origin and transit market, the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism is upgrading the status of its Visit Indonesia Tourism Officer (VITO) marketing representative in Singapore into a full promotion and information office.
Currently, the paperwork required for the formation of the office is being prepared. When complete, this will be the first such office overseas for Indonesia.
Indonesia used to have tourism promotion offices during the Soeharto era, but these were closed after the economic and political crisis in the late 1990s. Instead, Indonesia appointed marketing representatives in selected countries known as VITOs.
The move would scale up marketing efforts and trade collaborations in Singapore to a level more proportionate to targets set for the market.
Masruroh Arifin Nurdin, director for marketing development – Singapore, Thailand and Indochina at the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism said: “Singapore has a unique position among all the markets Indonesia is focusing on. Geographically, the country is small, but in terms of number of arrivals, its position is second after China.”
VITO Singapore’s data shows that while Singapore total population is 5.6 million, its outbound traffic movements last year numbered 9.8 million. “Besides being an international hub, Singapore is a hub for travellers from our other international source markets,” Masruroh said, giving examples of the fast-growing Indian and Chinese markets.
With 7,200 flights per week connecting Singapore and 400 cities across the world, there are 62.2 million passengers passing through Changi Airport a year.
“Besides, with our border-crossing promotions, VITO Singapore has a big duty to promote every programme put in place in Riau Islands (Batam and Bintan) as about 60 per cent of (visitors to the) islands (originate) from Singapore.”
This comprises not only the Singaporean citizens but also the expatriate community living in the country, which comprises about 1.6 million residents.
“This year, for example, we have 140 events in Batam and Bintan, which will be promoted in Singapore,” Masruroh said.
Masruroh said the ministry has two VITOs in the Middle East, source of a targeted 200,000 visitors; and India has two VITOs to grab the target of 700,000 tourists. In comparison, Singapore has only one VITO to tap 1.7 million arrivals targeted for this year.
“The tourism minister feels it is unfair for VITO Singapore to take on such a big task on its own. Instead of spending budget on two or three VITOs (in the small country), the minister has decided to open one full office here.”
When ready, Sulaiman Shehdek, country manager of VITO Singapore will continue spearheading the office with one marketing manager and two staff handling social media and sales.
On plans going forward, Sulaiman said: “Under the current arrangement, our resources are limited to only support promotional events and deal with travel agents. By having a dedicated marketing manager, we can expand our reach to associations, corporates and the end users.”
As the Ministry of Tourism is developing new destinations and promoting beyond Bali, there needs to be more awareness campaigns in the market.
“We need to educate the end-users about this. Having a full office will allow us to invite these new destinations to do exhibitions and promotions in our office, for example.
“We will have more consumer shows in the malls in the satellite districts in Singapore, where the locals and families spend their weekends shopping and eating out,” he said.
In relation to working with travel companies, he said the aim was not only to attract Singaporean residents to Indonesia, but also create Singapore-Indonesia combined or extension packages for travellers originating from all over the world.
Masruroh explained: “To tap the Indian market, for example, we need to do dual approach—the outbound operators in India and their ground handling agents here in Singapore. Here is where the promotion office will take part.”