In hot pursuit of Indonesia’s outbound market, Sichuan Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism is intensifying its marketing efforts by providing 40 per cent advertising subsidies to travel companies in Indonesia which include Sichuan in their promotional materials.
Besides organising fam trips for agents and the media from Indonesia to promote Sichuan’s various attractions, the government will also provide free landing reception, cultural performances and transportation, according to Yuan Shijun, director of international cooperation and exchanges, culture and tourism department of Sichuan Province.
Overall, official data from the Sichuan province showed that the south-western Chinese province welcomed some 3.7 million overseas visitors in 2018, representing a 10 per cent year-on-year increase. The number of Indonesian visitors, on the other hand, only accounted for about five to seven per cent of total arrivals in Sichuan.
Yuan noted that the low visitorship was in part due to the absence of direct flights between Sichuan and Indonesia, with visitors having to transit in several countries and regions, such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Beijing.
“We are encouraging agents to charter flights from Indonesia to Sichuan. The government will provide a subsidy of RMB500 (US$71) per tourist for travel companies which charter flights from Indonesia to Sichuan,” he said.
While capitalising on Sichuan’s unique position in the world as the home of pandas, the provincial government also plans to expand its “Sichuan, more than pandas” campaign to raise awareness of the province as a key tourism destination in international markets.
Yang Xingping, vice-governor of Sichuan Province, said: “We have enough products in Sichuan (to attract tourists), including five UNESCO World Heritage sites – Jiuzhaigou Valley, Huanglong Valley, Emei Mountain-Leshan Giant Buddha, Qingcheng Mountain-Dujiangyan Irrigation System and Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries.”
In coming years, Sichuan’s major tourism offerings will include 10 areas such as Sichuan’s capital city Chengdu; the greater Emei Mountains area; the greater Jiuzhaigou; National Highway 318 and 317, which link Sichuan and the Tibet autonomous region; the greater Shangri-La-Gongga Mountains area; the greater Shangri-La-Yading; as well as the Jialing River area and Qinba Mountains area.
Yang added that the province, thanks to its rich resources, is on track to grow into a major tourism destination in China, while the Sichuan government is working to ensure a pleasant travelling experience for Indonesian travellers by providing various Muslim-friendly facilities.
Such initiatives were welcomed by Andayani Halim, vice president of Istana Tour, who remarked that with the incentives provided, the prices of tour packages may be sold at a cheaper rate to entice more Indonesian travellers to Sichuan.
“Even if we offer a comfortable road trip, the journey still feels tiring. But if the travellers have to fly from Chengdu to Aba Prefecture (in north-western Sichuan), it will cost them more, which was already expensive to begin with because there is no direct flight,” she said.
Deputy secretary general of ASTINDO, Pauline Suharno, who is also managing director of Elok Tour, noted: “It is indeed challenging (to sell Sichuan to the Indonesian market). The price is high, making us unable to sell to the mass market. The province can be be offered for incentive groups and family holidays because Sichuan is very comfortable and beautiful.”
Meanwhile, Khairul Gumay, owner of Safa Tour Transport, has seen traveller interest in multi-destination packages like a seven-day tour combining Beijing or Shanghai, which were created to compensate for the the absence of direct flights connecting Indonesia and Sichuan.
“This gives more options for travellers, especially those who are looking for new destinations. This tour also gives them more experience and experiential travel is highly sought-after by Indonesians,” Khairul said.