International cruise ship operators showed their interest in Indonesia’s marine tourism in the International Seminar on “Cruise Development of Indonesia: How to Meet the Challenge of the Increasing Tonnage and Capacity of the Cruise Ships” which was held in Jakarta 2011 by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Unlike other tourist packages, traveling routes of cruise ships are normally prepared two years before their departure schedules. As such, the precise number of cruise calls at Indonesian ports can be known quite far in advance. Cruise ships can carry up to 2,000 passengers while some of the most recent generation of mega cruises have also visited Indonesia. They included Rhapsody of The Seas which belongs to Royal Caribbean International. The cruise, which can carry 2,453 people, once berthed at Lombok’s port.
Quite significant amounts of tourism revenues derive from cruise calls, according to Sapta Nirwandar, Director General of Marketing at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Cruise ships can berth in tourist areas like Bali and West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) to allow its passengers to visit tourist sites for 12-24 hours. “Each of them spends an estimated US$50-US$100, excluding their meals onboard their vessels and others. In the long run, cruise visits to Indonesia will have quite big impacts on its economy,” Sapta said.
The director general said however that the absence of world-class cruise ship ports is the major constraint to boost cruise calls. “We have received input from cruise operators. They even mentioned some very simple matters like the cleanness of tourist sites and the more serious ones like the need for finding new tourist destinations and the berthing of their cruises. If they cannot berth, then they have to cast an anchor quite far away and transport their passengers to shore with tender boats. This is more costly,” Sapta said.
“We are hopeful that not too long from now around two cruise ships will visit Indonesia per day. Beside Padang Bai and Benoa (Bali), Jakarta, Lembar (Lombok, NTB), Makassar (South Sulawesi), Komodo (East Nusa Tenggara) and Semarang (Central Java), we expect them to also go to sail to destinations like Tanjung Putting (Central Kalimantan) which has attracted international cruises in the past several years,” Sapta said.
According to Sapta, the serious efforts made by his office together with the Ministry of Industry and stakeholders from the marine tourism sector to develop Indonesia’s cruise tourism have shown signs of good results. This is evidenced by the rising number of cruise calls, which have reached about 90 a year in the past few years. Similarly, the number of places visited by overseas cruises has reached 66 destinations, up from three in the begining.
Players in the tourism business expect that the government will give special attention to the poor infrastructure of cruise ports by developing them into world-class ones. If not, and if the efforts made are merely discussions in seminar without concrete follow up measures, Indonesia will lose big opportunities of generating revenues from its cruise tourism.