When Beatrix Ginting, 25, hiked Mount Semeru in Malang, East Java, earlier in May, she could not reach the top because it was overcrowded. In Bali in the same week, the Jakarta-based digital agency worker met at least 10 acquaintances by chance.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said, referring to how local travelers are cramming domestic travel destinations.
Beatrix, who took some days off from work to spend a week travelling in early May, found herself among 6.9 million domestic airline passengers that month, the highest monthly figure in history, according to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).
Indonesia is witnessing a domestic travel boom as more people enter the middle-income segment and with aggressive marketing efforts by the Tourism Ministry, industry players say.
Places gaining in popularity include the world’s largest volcanic lake, Lake Toba, in North Sumatra, and Labuan Bajo, the fishing town at the western end of Flores in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) with access to popular tourist destinations Komodo Island and Rica Island.
The two are included in the government’s top 10 emerging tourist destinations to be developed and promoted, along with Mandalika, Mount Bromo, Morotai, Tanjung Lesung, Thousand Islands, Wakatobi, Belitung and Yogyakarta.
Major travel booking site Traveloka saw booking numbers for flights and hotels in May doubled over the previous month, with the most popular destinations being Denpasar, Surabaya, Padang, Yogyakarta and Makassar.
“This new trend shows that people are getting open to the options of air transportations as the price is increasingly competitive and the tickets are getting easier to be booked online,” Traveloka communications executive Busyra Oryza said, attributing the domestic travel trend to stronger people’s purchasing power.
The number of middle class and affluent consumers are projected to reach 141 million by 2020 from 88 million in 2014, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group. With at least Rp 50 million (US$3,808) worth of assets, this demographic group is jacking up spending in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
Those who earn Rp 5 million to Rp 10 million per month have begun travelling by plane, Sriwijaya Air Group senior corporate communications manager Agus Soedjono said.
“We have regarded those social economic classes as our segments, even though they are mostly ‘swingers’ as they have no loyalty to one airline,” he said, adding that the segment may opt domestic than international destinations because of less costs and easier travel.
“The segment for overseas destinations is very specific compared to domestic spots. To travel abroad, people need money, passport or even visa. Certainly, it’s simpler for them to go to local destinations,” Agus added.
Garuda Indonesia vice president of corporate communications Benny Siga Butarbutar said Bali was still high on top of the list for travelers because it had the most prepared infrastructure of all domestic tourism destinations.
“The problem [for our domestic tourism destinations] is that the infrastructure is still lacking,” he added, referring especially to the government’s top 10 priority tourism destinations, a notion echoed by local travelers and industry players.
Access to Lake Toba, North Sumatra, which was just recently being visited by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, just recently improved after the launch of Silangit Airport in North Sumatra that can take travelers to the lake in one hour, compared with the previous four-hour trip from the Kuala Namu International Airport. A new toll road connecting Tebing Tinggi to Parapat is also in the pipeline to cut the travel time from North Sumatra’s capital city of Medan to Lake Toba, which usually takes up to six hours by road.
Meanwhile, West Manggarai regental administration in NTT has also prepared to improve infrastructure in Labuan Bajo. NTT Tourism and Creative Economy Agency head Marius Ardu Jelamu said the government had started the restoration of roads, airports and ports around Labuan Bajo.
To motivate local governments in promoting their tourism potentials and improving infrastructure and access to local destinations, the Tourism Ministry conducts an award ceremony called the Anugerah Pesona Indonesia 2016 in September this year.
“This kind of event is indeed effective in increasing the local governments’ competitiveness and motivation,” Tourism Ministry’s deputy assistant for market development Tazbir said recently.