Fadhil Haidar Sulaeman, Jakarta – Both the government and business players are preparing to embrace two major holidays, Christmas and New Year, which it is hoped will be catalysts in spurring domestic spending on leisure activities that will boost the tourism recovery.
In a hearing session with the House of Representatives Commission V, which oversees infrastructure and transportation affairs, the Transportation Ministry announced that there would be no mobility restrictions during this end-of-year holiday season.
Since 2020, authorities had been heavily restricting transportation flows during these two festivities, along with other major holidays, in accordance with the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
However, since the beginning of this year, particularly after fears over the spread Omicron variant passed, the government has been allowing consumers to travel and purchase offline goods without the tight restrictions, including during the Ramadan and Idul Fitri festivities.
"This is a blessing for us, where the Christians can celebrate Christmas and all of us can celebrate New Year's Eve," Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi told commission members on Tuesday.
Budi said that this year's celebrations, compounded with school holidays, would boost the number of travelers compared with the previous holiday season.
As a result, preliminary research from the Transportation Ministry showed that 16.35 percent of the nationwide population, some 44.17 million people, would travel during the upcoming holiday season, up from the 13 percent in 2021 but still far below the 55 percent in 2019.
The Greater Jakarta area is expected to provide the lion's share of travelers with 7.1 million people, followed by East Java and West Java with 6.2 million people and 5.8 million, respectively.
Meanwhile, the top destinations are forecast to be Yogyakarta city with 1.9 million expected arrivals, followed by Bandung regency and Malang regency with 1.3 million and 1.19 million each.
The research also shows that 28.26 percent of the travelers prefer private cars as their transportation mode, followed by motorcycles and intercity trains at 16.47 percent and 13.42 percent, respectively.
Nonetheless, public transportation passengers are still expected to increase by 55.62 percent year-on-year (yoy) to 14.72 million passengers, mostly comprising bus and ferry services, with 3.23 million passengers and 2 million passengers, respectively.
"We will transfer full authority to the National Police Traffic Corps [Korlantas] to manage all toll and non-toll roads," Budi continued.
Speaking at the same event, Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) head Dwikorita Karnawati said that the peak rainy season would likely happen on Christmas and New Year's Eve. The heaviest rain could occur in Banten, West Java and Central Java.
"Due to climate change, an intensity of 10 normal rainy days could be compressed into hours," she said, adding that the agency would prepare early detection to prevent disruption during the holidays.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said, also on Tuesday, that the tourism sector could generate revenue amounting to Rp 3,281 trillion (US$210 billion), which is a contribution of around 18 percent to GDP.
He appealed for Indonesian consumers to refrain from overseas travel and spend their money domestically, particularly on the five main tourist destinations assigned by the government.
These destinations are Lake Toba, Borobudur Temple, Mandalika, Labuan Bajo and Likupang. "We need to push our people to remain within our country," Luhut said.
Indonesian Shopping Center Association (APPBI) chairperson Alphonzus Widjaja told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that businesses welcomed the government's decision to maintain its leniency with regard to mobility restrictions, particularly in "peak season" after Ramadan and Idul Fitri.
Such leniency provides an opportunity for shopping centers to advertise their products and create events that attract visitors and increase revenues, he said.
As a result, Alphonzus forecast that visitors to shopping centers will increase within the range of 90 to 100 percent compared with pre-pandemic periods.
"This [decision] could allow shopping centers to close 2022 in a better condition [...] after more than two years of heavy burdens and continued deficits," Alphonzus said.
Indonesian Tour and Travel Agency Association (ASITA) deputy chairperson Budijanto Ardiansyah said on Tuesday that "all should be well" in this year's festivities, with domestic clients fueling the recovery.
He expected revenue growth to increase within the 15 to 20 percent range compared with 2019, as he said that even a few months ago the figure already exceeded the pre-pandemic year by around 10 percent.
However, he noted that foreign tourists were still only returning on a gradual basis, and the arrivals were "many, but not equal" because they are focused mainly on Bali with a spillover to Labuan Bajo and Mandalika.
He recommended the government do more to promote Indonesia as a quality tourist destination, describing the new criminal code, with its criminalization of extramarital sex as a "disruption".
"Hopefully the campaign [on explaining the criminal code] can be improved," Budijanto told the Post.
Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) secretary-general Maulana Yusran told the Post that the main impact would be felt from the free-mobility policy, particularly as the last two years had seen multiple sudden changes in regulations that severely battered the tourist sector.
He said that occupancy rates in hotels varied around the 50 percent point and were expected to increase, as current technology provided for last-minute reservations.
"Actually there is no problem, but we had hoped that there would have been collective leave," Maulana said on Wednesday.
Center for Economic and Law Studies (CELIOS) director Bhima Yudhistira said, also on Wednesday, that the huge gap between the Transportation Ministry's estimates and 2019 was due to the degradation of consumer purchasing power as a result of inflation and rising interest rates.
"The people are preparing for a potential recession next year, so they are more frugal," Bhima told the Post.