Indonesia can sometimes be very frustrating. Another example recently is the new ad campaign “Visit Indonesia 2008”. Here we are in a 17,000 island archipelago blessed with the most amazing touristic potential anyone could ever dream of. You name it, they have it – save for skiing zones. Paradise beaches? Check: Maluku, white sand, crystal clear water and nothing but you and coconuts. Awesome natural sights? Check: Java volcanoes, full to the brim with mystical legends; the second largest rain forest after Brazil; Lombok rice terrasses. Fascinating local culture? Check: balinese rituals; World heritage Borobudur temples; sexy penis gourd people; crazy Toraja burial ceremonies. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences? Check: hanging out with wild orang-outang, poking Komodo dragons with a stick; sunrise on top of Kelimutu. Friendliest people on earth? Check: just about everywhere (more to come about that).
You’ve got it all. But less than 5 million people come every year to visit, when 30 million of them will be fooled to think Thailand is the place to go. Pfff… Several reasons: so many Westerners think Bali is an independent country, and most are afraid of the crazy Muslims and lack of infrastructures. Wrong on the first two assumption. The second is quite accurate though: the commoner’s idea of a paradise beach usually does not include squat toilets where if you forgot to bring your own toilet paper, you’re screwed.
So, there is a lot of work to do to attract people to the archipelago, and the genius Minister of Tourism decided he had to take the matter in his own hands – of course without wasting time hiring tourism and communication specialists to help him. He came up with a fantastic motto “celebrating 100 years of nation awakening” - yes, with the grammatical mistake now plastered on all Garuda Indonesia flights - and a pretty ridiculous ad campaign. ‘Cause you know, what is most important is to get back at the Malaysians, who last year celebrated their 50th anniversary of independence (in Indonesia, it is just compulsary to HATE Malaysia); so the officials decided they will have a 100th anniversary of some sort, that happened to be the creation of a nationalist party long gone that nobody has ever heard of. And that’s what is supposed to bring the crowds in the country? Sigh.