She may have the best title of any minister I have met, and I’ve met many.
Her Excellency, Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu is Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy for Indonesia. Obviously the intriguing part is the latter half of her title (more on that later), but as Ministers go, the Australian (National University) and American educated (University of California, Davis) Pangestu is a dynamo.
Previously Minister of Trade and rumored future Director General of the World Trade Organization, Pangestu is presiding over Indonesia’s push to capture more high yield tourism with its new Wonderful Indonesia campaign. Tourism infrastructure is growing rapidly, she said, with 200% growth in investment in 2012. Currently there are over a hundred golf courses, and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) will get a bigger push with numerous updates and new build conference centers. The group market accounts for 30% of tourism revenues, and entities that have selected Indonesia range from “WTO to WTO. World Tourism Organization to World Toilet Organization.” American President Obama will visit for the APEC forum in October and for those who don’t follow politics, Miss World will hold its beauty contest in the archipelago as well.
While tourism is directly responsible for 4% of Indonesia’s GNP and over 9% via indirect contribution, Pangestu perhaps summarized her nation’s tourist trade best: “We make people happy”.
Seven key categories are being promoted: Culture, Nature, Recreational Sports, Cruises, Shopping, Health/Wellness and MICE.
The Minister speaking at ITB in Berlin pointed out that her country is a model for multi-cultural relations – its total population of 245 million comprises some 300 ethnic groups, who inhabit over 17,000 islands. It’s 90 ecosystems make Indonesia second in the world for biodiversity. The country is home to 25% of the world’s fish species and 12% of coral reefs, not to mention eight UNESCO heritage sites.
While the Minister joked that many foreigners think of Bali as a country due to its popularity, she said her focus would be to expand interest in other destinations as well. While that might qualify as creative marketing, the Minister didn’t speak to her role as heading Creative Economy. However, a recent article in the Jakarta Post explained that the definition is quite broad and includes entrepreneurial endeavors – creating the next Facebook, for example. In the meantime, the Minister seems focused on increasing the real world likes for her country by gaining more real visitors. For Indonesia, that would be wonderful.