By Ansar M Bhatti
The Indonesian embassy in Islamabad arranged a Familiarization Trip for Pakistani media persons titled FAMTRIP 2019, albeit this time with new destinations. The trip started with participants’ participation in 34th Indonesia Trade Expo that took place in Jakarta from October 16 to 20. Hundreds of delegates from across the globe chose to be part of this mega event with a sizeable representation from Pakistan also. Every year businessmen and even visitors from various countries find it convenient to attend this expo with a view to not only exploring Indonesian potential in different fields but to forge business partnerships as well. The regular holding of this expo is a clear manifestation of its success and utility. Hats therefore off to the incumbent Indonesia government spearheaded by President Joko Widodo under whose guidelines such expos are organized in order to make Indonesia better understand in the outer world besides showcasing its real potential.
After Jakarta, the FAMTRIP team dashed to Bali en route to Labuan Bajo island, which happens to be a tiny but gorgeous island in Flores Islands. Padar and Komodo Islands were our next destinations – a detailed report of which is available separately in this issue therefore here I will not go into details as to what these islands have to offer to the tourists, nevertheless the way tourism development work is being looked after under the patronage of the incumbent government ostensibly merits some mention.
Indonesian government has set a target of wooing around 20 million tourists this year and figures suggest it is close to achieving this target. Tourism contributes around 5 per cent to the GDP of Indonesia with these figures increasing every year. The government every year identifies certain touristic attractions and then markets them to the outer world through its missions abroad and ministry of tourism. The response it is getting as a result of this exercise clearly indicates that all such efforts are bearing fruit.
Pakistan and Indonesia have been cooperating in various fields since long. Both countries have a number of commonalities due to which bilateral engagement can surely be intensified. There is a strong resolve and will on both sides that mutual cooperation must be given new dimensions. Ambassador of Indonesia Iwan S Amri is particularly keen on promoting and strengthening people-to-people contacts, which happens to be an objective approach for people to people relations hold key to promotion of all other types of relations such as trade, business, culture etc.
Both Pakistan and Indonesia are gifted with plethora of resources. Both happen to be the most populous Muslims countries. Undoubtedly people in both countries are industries and resilient. They can do wonders if their talent is exploited properly and judiciously. Indonesia perhaps provides the best example of unity in diversity. All faiths c0-exhist peacefully and contributing to the national development. This model may be emulated here as well.
One is greatly touched by hospitality and humbleness of Indonesian people that, in my view, plays central role in their success in all spheres. We could see people walking around and saying “hello” and other greeting to us while we were either visiting a shopping place or a tourist destination. Even we came across people in civil dress but actually from the police department. They came to us asking about our nationalities and then revealing their identity that they were from the police and were here to protect tourists and visitors.
The idea of tourist police is unique and now in vogue in many countries. I first experienced this in Uzbekistan where tourist police has been taking care of tourists since 2017. The main task of this department is to monitor the tourism safety in country, inform guests about potential threats in real time, as well as help in protecting their rights and interests.
Alas we could have this kind of system in Pakistan also. Comparing Pakistan with Indonesia or for that matter with other countries, Pakistan lags far behind when it comes to development of tourist sites and attracting tourists from across the globe. We unfortunately do not have a tourism ministry at the federal level therefore countries that are eager to have cooperation with us in this important sphere are unable to do it.
Indonesian people too are keen to come to Pakistan for especially religious tourism purposes. It is now up to our side to reach out to them and invite them. It can be a major source of income for the government also.