Indonesian capital beckons Thai visitors

A traffic jam is seen on Sudirman Street in Jakarta.  The city is improving its public transport network.

A traffic jam is seen on Sudirman Street in Jakarta. The city is improving its public transport network.

Jakarta’s tourism authorities plan to hold a roadshow in Bangkok in a bid to attract more Thais to visit the Indonesian capital, saying the city is ready to welcome tourists and business visitors now that the Covid-19 pandemic has abated .

According to Hari Wibowo, the head of the marketing and attractions division under the Jakarta Department of Tourism and Creative Economy, while Indonesia’s capital will move to Nusantara in East Kalimantan, Jakarta will become the nation’s beating heart, business hub, and a major entry point for international tourists to the country.

While Covid-19 brought most economic activity to a halt, Jakarta did not stop growing throughout the pandemic, he said, citing the newly completed, 82,000-seat Jakarta National Stadium, which has a retractable roof, as an example.

“The pandemic has forced the world to retreat, but Jakarta has built on its foundations instead, with many new places built during Covid-19,” he said.

Thai “welcome”

Mr. Wibowo acknowledged that when it comes to tourist numbers, Jakarta is far behind Bangkok.

“Jakarta welcomed an average of 2.5 million tourists per year. But after the pandemic, the figure dropped below 500,000,” he said, noting that most tourists in Jakarta came from Malaysia, China, Japan, Korea, and Thailand.

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“This year the numbers have remained low because China is still closed to the world. Hopefully we will see a million tourists visit Jakarta by the end of next year, including Thais.”

In an effort to attract more visitors, tourism authorities in Jakarta have launched various campaigns in Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Tokyo and Dubai. Next year, he said, they hope to promote Jakarta as a destination in Bangkok.

“Tourists can explore Jakarta before moving on to other cities. We are launching a number of walking and food tours for those who want to see different places of interest in the city. Those who are more health conscious, meanwhile, can take part in a Run and/or bike tour around the capital,” he said.

Popular attractions

During a sightseeing tour of the city, Mr. Wibowo took members of the media to a newly inaugurated pedestrian crossing in South Jakarta, which has become one of Jakarta’s most popular landmarks.

Officially opened on March 10, the bridge was built to resemble a phinisi, a traditional vessel used by Indonesian sailors from South Sulawesi. The intersection, lit up at night, has become a popular photo backdrop for tourists and local residents.

“This bridge doubles as a monument to honor medical personnel who lost their lives during the early stages of the pandemic,” he said.

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Jakarta is also famous for its shopping malls, with 385 shopping malls located all over the city limits. For example, Sarinah, the first department of the city, specializes in Made-in-Indonesia goods, he said.

Neo-Soho, meanwhile, hosts Jakarta Aquarium Safari, which is the city’s largest indoor aquarium. With over 3,500 unique species, the aquarium was recognized as Indonesia’s Leading Conservation Destination 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 by Indonesia Travel Tourism Awards.

Improved transportation

In an effort to encourage tourists to explore Jakarta, the government has moved to improve the city’s footpaths and public transport network.

Currently, visitors to Jakarta can use the Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit System to travel along the city’s north-south axis. Once completed, the system will span 108 kilometers, providing connectivity to Jakarta’s outer suburbs and satellite cities.

The MRT is connected to the bus rapid transit network known as TransJakarta, whose buses run along a dozen corridors throughout the city. The buses are supplemented by TransLokal, smaller minibuses that go to the local districts.

Many of the city’s attractions are located along these bus corridors, including the National Monument, built to mark Indonesia’s independence struggle; the Istiqlal Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and sixth largest in the world; and the Jakarta Cathedral, directly opposite the Istiqlal.

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Mr. Wibowo admitted that not unlike Bangkok, Jakarta suffers from chronic traffic congestion, which the government is trying to solve by adopting a transit-oriented development (TOD) approach.

“We are still working to connect the eastern and western suburbs of the city, which we hope to do by 2030,” he said.

Traffic authorities in Jakarta have also adopted new approaches to limit travel in congested city areas, including the odd/even system that sees cars with plates ending in an odd number allowed to pass certain roads on odd-numbered days, and vice versa.

In addition, the Jakarta government plans to completely switch to electric buses by 2030, Mr. Wibowo said. Efforts are continuing to get more people to drive electric cars, but installing charging units has proven to be a hurdle, he said.

When asked to comment on the ongoing plan to develop Jakarta’s outdated infrastructure while plans to move the capital to East Kalimantan are underway, Mr Wibowo said Jakarta will continue to play an important role.

“Even if Jakarta ceases to be the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta will continue to be the business capital of Indonesia,” he said.

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