Indonesian tour operators have blasted a new regulation by the Banyuwangi authorities that limits tour guiding services in the regency to an exclusive group as ill-timed, saying it will have a deterrent effect on wholesalers selling this emerging destination in East Java.
The new policy stipulates that tour operators from other parts of the country entering the territory must enlist the services of the official 130 Banyuwangi travel agents and guides who have been certified by the district.
Yanuar Bramuda, head of the Banyuwangi Tourism and Culture Office, said that the new regulation is to protect local businesses and ensure that customers can enjoy consistent product quality and professional services.
He explained: “In the last two years, Banyuwangi tourism has developed rapidly, but we have received complaints about the unprofessional behaviour of some local players. Our investigations showed that the complaints were directed towards uncertified travel agents, therefore, we decided to restructure (the system) to avoid backfire.”
The new regulation also ensures the health and safety of guests travelling in the area as all 130 licensed guides – as well as drivers – have undergone training by the local government in the implementation of mandatory health protocols, and have passed these tests, according to Bramuda.
However, tour operators said that the issuance of the new regulation at a time when the tourism sector devastated by the pandemic is struggling to rebuild itself can deal a further blow to demand.
Umberto Cadamuro, COO Inbound of Pacto, said that if the regulation had been issued during rosy times, it would have been a good step towards protecting local players. However, the sector is now embroiled in turmoil.
He explained: “If DMCs or operators outside of Banyuwangi, who usually include the destination in their Java overland trip itineraries, must partner with local players (in Banyuwangi to bring tourists into the region), it will affect the pricing. Nowadays, besides health, price is a sensitive thing.
“(Tour operators) are now focused on how to bounce back the business; they will not want to be bothered with this regulation. So DMCs and wholesalers will end up not including Banyuwangi in the list of destinations (that they are selling).”
Echoing the same sentiment, Adjie Wahjono, operations manager of Aneka Kartika Tours, said that that this regulation might put a dent on demand because Banyuwangi is not a mono destination like Bali or Yogyakarta.
“Banyuwangi might be a popular route in a Java overland trip, but it still has to be combined with other destinations, especially because it does not have direct (international) access,” he said.
Moreover, Adjie expressed concern that the regulation may not sit well with guests. “With health issues like now, changing operators (may) cause anxiety to guests. It would be more efficient and safer for one agency to helm the entire tour journey,” he said.
For Monas Tjahjono, managing director of Monas Tour, the application of the regulation may affect the trip quality due to differing standards across operators.
“If they want to standardise the quality of the tour and health protocols, it is enough to follow the regulations drawn up by the central or provincial government because all operators must comply with the rules set forth nationally,” he added.
Umberto suggested that the Banyuwangi district government postpone the implementation of the new regulation, and instead, direct its focus towards upskilling tourism players to enhance the international competitiveness of the destination. For starters, he suggested foreign language training for industry players, noting that the language barrier still poses a barrier to selling the country’s tourism products.