Bali has been praised into top tourist destination in the world for decades. Surfing on Kuta beach, enjoying tropical fruit drinks while watching the sunset, and exploring local villages are some of favorite activities that tourists usually do when visiting Bali. The beauty of the Bali Island and the local cultures it possesses have even succeeded in making Bali for the second time occupy the first position on the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award in 2021, after previously winning it in 2017.
The advantages of tourism industry bring economic benefits to Indonesia. Tourism plays an important role in the contribution of Indonesia’s gross domestic product, which is around 4.3%. However, due to the pandemic, the Indonesian tourism ministry stated that 75% of foreign tourist arrivals had decreased. As a means to revitalize the tourism industry, the Indonesian government launched the “5 new Bali” campaign in providing 5 travel destinations that are assigned to be the next Bali. The five super priority destinations are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, and Likupang in North Sulawesi.
Public Diplomacy As “A Tailor-Made” Approach
Hans Tuch defines public diplomacy as a government’s communication process of engaging with foreign publics in order to increase understanding of its country’s concepts and principles, institutions and cultures, as well as national goals and policies. Shaping the international community’s perception about the potential of tourist destinations in Indonesia, apart from aiming to maintain a positive image of Indonesia, it also aims at other Indonesia’s national interests, such as economic recovery in tourism industry which not only centered in Bali.
In practice, there is no standard form of public diplomacy activities carried out by the state as an international actor. We can understand that historically, the implementation of public diplomacy activities was carried out flexibly and adapted to the resources of each country. In terms of tourism, Indonesia has three main sources that have the potential to become supporting tools in public diplomacy activities, beautiful archipelago, Indonesian popular cuisine, and local culture. Through this article, we will try to revisit the Indonesia government’s communication strategy from the aspect of public diplomacy in an effort to promote the “5 new Bali” project to international community, especially in the momentum of the Indonesian G20 Presidency.
Consisting of various beautiful tropical islands, Indonesia has hosted several international events. This opportunity is certainly used by Indonesia government to maximize its public diplomacy agenda in promoting the “5 new Bali” Project on the international stage. For example, in 2018 when Indonesia hosted the IMF-World Bank meeting, the Indonesia government offered several tour packages to the meeting delegates. Just imagine, with the number of meeting participants reaching 36,339 delegates, Indonesia can get a “free promotion” if the delegates upload it to their social media or through the power of word-of-mouth when the delegates return to their respective countries. Indonesia does not need to spend a lot of money to advertise. However, because at that time the meeting was held in Bali, the tour packages that were most in demand were Bali.
To avoid repeat the same mistake, Indonesia has specifically made several super priority travel destinations as locations for a series of G20 side event meetings so that they are not concentrated only in Bali. This is designed so that these destinations get exposure for their potential of local tourism. Local culture is the main value in Indonesia’s G20 presidency. For example, the 1st Education Working Group (1st EdWG) meeting was held in Yogyakarta. On the sidelines of the meeting, the delegates were invited to one of the icons of Yogyakarta tourism, namely the Yogyakarta palace to have dinner with 11 traditional cuisines. In addition, the delegates were also invited to experience the Pateha tea ceremony (Royal High Tea). On another occasion, the delegates of the Environment Deputies Meeting and Climate Sustainability Working Group (EDM-CSWG) learning “membatik”, the local term for painting on Batik, the traditional fabric of Indonesia that was part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Indonesia was born under a lucky star, because in the same year it also hosted the MotoGP Grand Prix which was held at the Mandalika Circuit, one of the locations included as a super priority tourism destination for the “5 new Bali” project. The Indonesia government through the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy immediately took quick action by initiating a program for the music community in Mandalika to perform at the MotoGP event. The program is devoted to the local music and art community in Mandalika in order to receive intensive assistance in the process of creating art works. Hoping that these local music communities can give an impressive performance when all eyes on the mandalika circuit because of the MotoGP Grand Prix.
Public Diplomacy Approach That Should Be Avoided: Hit and Run Strategy
Public diplomacy has a different essence from traditional diplomacy. While traditional diplomacy is primarily aimed at reaching agreements in a formal way (government-to-government), public diplomacy aims to increase awareness or engage with international community. This is why public diplomacy is often called “playing a long game” because to get international public attention in depth, it takes endurance and consistency. Indonesia’s G20 presidency provides a large platform for Indonesia to maximize public diplomacy activities. However, Indonesia needs to think about how to to promote the “5 new Bali” project after the G20 momentum. Environmental sustainability and building generic relationships can be two added values in the amplification of the “5 new Bali” project.
Environmental sustainability is key in the era of the modern tourism industry. According to the 2021 Agoda Sustainable Travel Trends Survey, 26% of respondents consider the government is the most responsible for environmental sustainability in the tourism industry. Based on this, the Indonesia government needs to show its concern and efforts in protecting the environment. One manner by consider the use of renewable energy in building tourism infrastructure. All single-use plastics should be banned completely. The issue of animal conservation can also be used by Indonesia to build a positive tourism image, one of which is conservation on the Komodo Island. This is an important benchmark that Indonesia can consider, because Komodo is an animal that can only be found in Indonesia so that it can attract the attention of the international tourist. Moreover, Komodo Island is only 2 hours away from Labuan Bajo which is included in the “5 new Bali” projects of super priority tourism destination.
Last but not least, the Indonesian government needs to build a more “generic” relationship with the international public. The government must work with non-governmental actors such as well-known international influencers to promote destinations that are included in the “5 new Bali” project. This collaboration with influencers is very important in the promotional strategy, because it will lead to higher brand awareness due to the large number of fans. With influencers, promotion will also be more effective because the public will not be skeptical of the “advertising” of this “5 new Bali” project and encourage decisions to purchase tourism packages. Another way that can be used is to hold international events. Glorious success for Indonesia government with the MotoGP 2022. In the future, Indonesia should be able to hold concerts in collaboration with international artists in tourism destinations that are included in the “5 new Bali” project. Hoping that with these two added values, the Indonesia government can continue to amplify the “New Bali” tourism project in a sustainable manner, even though the G20 momentum has ended.