Photo for illustrative purposes only. Sandiaga Uno is now minister for creative economy and tourism. Photo taken Sep 18, 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Islamic Lifestyle

Indonesia's Muslim-friendly tourism leaders optimistic about recovery under new ministers

JAKARTA – Leaders of Indonesia’s Muslim-friendly tourism industry are optimistic the country’s newly-appointed ministers can help accelerate the sector’s recovery.

President Joko Widodo on Wednesday (Dec 23) swore into office six new ministers. The move followed his stated intent in late June to replace any cabinet members who do not possess “a sense of crisis” in the COVID-19 pandemic response, and give his administration a fresh start as it embarks on the much-anticipated mass vaccination campaign next year.

Indonesia’s tourism and travel industry has been severely hit as international travel has been highly restrictive and movements domestically have also been curtailed by lockdowns.

Riyanto Sofyan, chairperson of the Indonesia Halal Tourism Association (PPHI) said the industry will be better supported by the newly-appointed creative economy and tourism minister, Sandiaga Uno.

PPHI worked with Uno during his term as deputy governor of Jakarta but their collaborative projects were shelved when he ran with Widodo opponent Prabowo Subianto as candidate for vice president in the 2019 election.

“I see high commitment (from Uno) on the development of the halal tourism industry. He already knows that the industry offers much room for improvement. I hope he also prefers the same strategy as former minister Wishnutama Kusubandio, that was more focused on quality tourism (amount of spending) rather than quantity,” Sofyan told Salaam Gateway.

“We can see the average spending of Muslim tourists is above $1,300 per tourist per visit,” said Sofyan, citing data from the tourism ministry.

“Middle East and USA tourists spent an average of $2,000 to $2,500. In terms of length of stay, it is around 3 days to 7 days.

“In contrast, conventional (non-Muslim) tourists only spent an average $1,100 with the length of stay of 1.3 days. Muslim tourists spend more because they bring family and also enjoy more experiences,” Sofyan added.

The PPHI head, who is also the owner of Sofyan Hotel, believes the Muslim-friendly tourism industry can grow organically even without government programs. The sector, he said, needs to be packaged and marketed in a more inclusive and innovative way.

“Tourists have now changed their behavior, more are concerned with responsible tourism, wellness, eco-friendly or sustainable tourism and volunteer tourism. So while they are on vacation they also want to help others to survive through the pandemic period.”

He advised the tourism industry to stay disciplined in implementing health protocols to gain the confidence of international tourists, even with the rollout of the much-anticipated vaccinations.

Syam Resfiadi, chairperson of the Indonesia Umrah Travel Association (SAPUHI), believes new minister Uno will not face any challenge in accelerating the industry’s development, considering his background as an entrepreneur.

The owner of Patuna Travel expects the new minster of religious affairs, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, to work closely with the general secretary, Prof. Nizar Ali. Both Qoumas and Prof. Ali know each other from their time with the Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). Qoumas was chairperson of NU’s youth wing and Prof. Ali led the NU branch in Jogjakarta.


The cabinet reshuffle last week also involved the following:

  • Surabaya mayor Tri Rismaharini replaced Juliari Batubara as Social Affairs Minister.
  • Deputy Defense Minister Wahyu Sakti Trenggono was promoted to the Maritime and Fisheries Affairs Minister post, replacing Edhy Prabowo, who is currently in the custody of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) after being named as a suspect in a bribery case.
  • Budi Gunadi Sadikin, who previously served as Deputy Minister at the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, is now Health Minister, replacing Terawan Agus Putranto. The former Health Minister was criticized by President Widodo in June following the Health Ministry’s sluggish pace of spending amid the country’s struggle to contain the coronavirus. At that same meeting, the President warned that he would take “extraordinary steps”, including a Cabinet shakeup, if ministers failed to take the crisis seriously.
  • The President also ordered the return of Indonesia’s Ambassador to the United States, Muhammad Lutfi, to replace National Awakening Party politician Agus Suparmanto as Trade Minister.
  • The President also swore in five deputy ministers: Muhammad Herindra as Deputy Minister of Trade, Pahala Mansury as Deputy Minister of SOE, Dante Saksono Harbuwono as Deputy Minister to Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Harvick Hasnul Qolbi as Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej as Deputy Minister of Law and Human Rights.

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