Escape / February 2017

Bigger than Bali

The Melbourne festival promotes Indonesian tourism beyond Bali, Ruby Syme reports.

For Australians, Indonesia is often synonymous with Bali. With its beautiful beaches and towering temples it’s easy to see why the island remains at the top of visitors’ hot lists. But, as a new festival in Melbourne is helping to promote, the intrigue of Indonesia extends far beyond the Kuta coast.

Held at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne from January 21-22, The Wonderful Indonesia Festival aimed to promote 10 alternative Indonesian destinations to the Australian public.

“We looked at 10 alternate destinations from Bali, which we call the ‘New Bali,’ to introduce to attendees,” festival organizer and managing director of Visit Indonesia Tourism Emil Ridwan said.

“Promoting awareness of destinations outside of Bali is very important, and we can do that through this festival. We want Australians to keep visiting Bali, but perhaps next time go beyond Bali to those parts of Indonesia still relatively untouched by tourism.”

Acting on interest generated by the event, the festival provided visitors the chance to book exclusive holiday deals to Indonesia through the ‘helloworld’ booth.

With over 1 million Australian’s visiting Indonesia between January and November 2016 alone, and the Ministry of Tourism hoping to increase this number to 1.8 million in 2017, the festival played an important role in promoting wider Indonesia to the Australian public.

Deputy of international marketing at the Ministry of Tourism I Gede Pitana said the festival was “a perfect occasion… to further promote Indonesia’s tourist attractions,” adding that he hoped it would increase awareness of Indonesia’s emerging destinations. Focusing on three main areas of Indonesian tourism - wellness, culinary and marine -the festival aimed to give attendees a ‘taste’ of Indonesia, allowing them to experience different regions of the country through food, music, and cultural exhibitions.

“The event helps to promote awareness of Indonesia and to create engagement – it gives people the chance to experience, to touch and feel and experience what the country has to offer,” Emil said.

Local cuisine was showcased by 12 food trucks, offering dishes from West Java to Sumatra, and various destinations were promoted by appearances from traditional dancers, Kolintang and Gamelan orchestras as well as popular Balinese reggae group Marapu Band.

For Emil, the collaboration between Australia and Indonesia showcased through the festival is an important part of Indonesia’s tourism future. “I hope in the future we are able to have a bigger event that will showcase more collaboration projects between Australia and Indonesia and will help demonstrate the strength and importance of this relationship,” he said.