In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and has been devastating for human life. Global tourism collapsed as tourist arrivals decreased by 71% in 2021.

That has had a major impact in countries like Indonesia, where tourism was booming pre-pandemic: tourism generated Rp536.8 trillion in 2017, or 4.1% of Indonesia’s total gross domestic product, with 12.7 million jobs within the industry.

However, digital technology adoption has been an unexpected silver lining of the pandemic, emerging as a tool that may also help speed up tourism recovery worldwide. It shifts tourist preferences and priorities towards digital travel. It also presents latest business opportunities in offering more relevant online experiences.

More tourism activities now offer hybrid events, particularly for music festivals, concert events and business meetings. Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) provide a brand new travel experience, and have been adopted by hotels, destinations and online travel marketplaces all around the globe.

There is, nonetheless, a challenge in technology adoption to support tourism in Indonesia: its comparatively low information and communication technology (ICT) readiness.

According to a May 2022 World Economic Forum report, Indonesia was ranked 68th in 2020 in its ICT readiness. This rating was based on the expansion of individual web usage and 3G mobile broadband network coverage in each country.

While Indonesia’s rating had barely increased from seventieth in 2019, it was behind Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The use of digital platforms for financial services, transportation and shipping and leisure activities in Indonesia are slow, and ought to be a subject for improvement.

From dreaming to sharing, tech may also help tourists

One study emphasises how technology must be a catalyst to create meaningful tourism experiences.

The tourist experience is the backbone of business success, because it drives people to make travel decisions.

The key to enhancing this experience is knowing how tourists make travel decisions through different travel stages: from dreaming, planning, booking, and experiencing, to sharing.

Using technology to enhance the tourism experience throughout all travel stages is critical. Technology helps connect tourism supply and demand, creating physical and virtual experiences. It enables tourism providers to keep up competitiveness available in the market. Tourists also use technology to plan their trips, experience destinations and reflect on their travels to acquire satisfaction.

Several technologies that shape the tourism experience include Big Data, cloud computing, VR/AR, blockchain, artificial intelligence, social media, gamification and the web of things.

For example, the Skyscanner chatbot on Facebook or Whatsapp assists with travelling needs, from digging out information to offering fast responses in the course of the booking process. In one other example, Iceland has upgraded Keflavik Airport’s automated baggage tracking system to alert travellers when their baggage is nearby.

Advanced technology creates value throughout tourism experiences by providing selections and convenience, flexibility, safety, fun and delight, and real-time, reliable information. As a result, tourists have more options and suppleness in every stage of their travel journey: from acquiring information, planning an e-itinerary, booking and buying flights or hotels online, to sharing their experiences.

Opportunities and challenges for Indonesia

Indonesia has a big population, growing mobile web penetration and a vibrant start-up ecosystem, with essentially the most growth recorded in e-commerce and online transportation. All of those aspects display Indonesia’s potential for adopting advanced technology.

Technology adoption by Indonesian corporations.
East Ventures – Digital Competitiveness Index 2022, Author provided (no reuse)

But Indonesia must also catch as much as other countries in capturing its digital potential. The inequality of ICT infrastructure between regions and income classes has turn into the most important barrier to the accessibility of fine quality web.

Moreover, digital literacy – especially on safety – is low and needs improvement.

Indonesia’s information and communication technology (ICT) readiness.
Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021, Author provided (no reuse)

A World Bank report shows digital payment adoption is comparatively low, with 50% of Indonesian online buyers preferring to pay money on delivery.

The lack of knowledge, knowledge and trust, regulation and appropriate infrastructure curb e-commerce growth in Indonesia.

Such conditions could hinder the success of the Indonesian tourism industry, because it needs to keep up competitiveness amid growing digital demands. Without advanced technology, the tourism industry won’t thrive within the ever-changing global market.

A map for the long run

The Indonesian government needs a map to design digital strategies that match with tourists’ expectations and wishes. The map would present tourists’ experiences, including their interactions with essentially the most relevant digital touchpoint in every travel stage (from dreaming to sharing).

Such a map could address digital tourism challenges, and help the tourism industry offer a frictionless, seamless, and better-quality tourism experience.

Author provided

The map could also raise awareness amongst tourism stakeholders in regards to the current digital technology in Indonesia and tourism particularly.

Areas that the Indonesian government could concentrate on to offer the perfect digital services include:

  • improving digital government services within the tourism sector
  • utilising digital strategies for promoting tourism
  • adopting data integration and interoperability within the tourism sector
  • investing in digital literacy for tourism industry employees
  • more research and development for technology adoption within the tourism sector
  • enhancing digital services for businesses, and
  • simplifying, updating and revising policies and regulations related to digitalisation within the tourism sector.

Implementing the motion plans above could speed up digital transformation in Indonesia’s tourism industry. In doing so, it might increase the standard of tourism services on offer for people concerned about visiting Indonesia.

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