If you look up “Indonesia Tourism” on Google, you’re probably going to stumble to a news article about ambitious tourism program the Indonesian Government is optimistic to achieve. Since 2015, there has been a significant increase in the Indonesian tourism industry. The industry is growing a steady 22% and is the 9th highest growth in the world. Through this, there has been an incredible influx of foreign tourists visiting our Islands.

One program that this new tourism plan is hinging on is the government’s Desa Wisata program. The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism launched their new 10 New Bali program with Desa Wisata as the spearhead to welcome tourists, foreign and local, to their new ambitious destinations.

So what exactly is the Desa Wisata program? And how is it similar to the community-based tourism concept? Tighten your bootstraps as we find out.

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History

Desa Wisata literally translates to “tourism village” in Bahasa Indonesia. In the hope that villages can become the grassroots backbone of small-medium tourism enterprises, the government implemented the Desa Wisata concept. Hoping that eventually they would grow to become bigger players in the industry.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, there are now about 1,700 Desa Wisata in Indonesia. For the most part, Desa Wisata destination falls under rural tourism.  This is where urban dwellers escape to the countryside in search of a different pace of life. At minimum, locals of a Desa destination welcome travellers to  sleep in a homestay run by a local resident. More established Desa Wisata have tour packets that already include itineraries and activities according to the price.

If locals of a village want to turn their village into a Desa Wisata, there are requirements that the village will need in order to make it into a viable tourist destination. The major ones include :

  • Having an attraction unique to the area that cannot be found anywhere else, an attraction that has not been meddled with human hands.
  • The attraction should have a competitive advantage in comparison to other tourist attractions in the area (this relates to future monetization).
  • Community empowerment that gives the local community an incentive to take part in the management of the tourist attraction in their area.

For the most part, the concept of Desa Wisata has always put local communities and the forefront beneficiaries.  If done right, the benefit brought on from tourism can benefit other sectors such as village infrastructure. Ideally it would also jump start local economies and the spirit of opening up small enterprises within the local community.

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Success Stories

One of the big success stories to come out of the Desa Wisata program is Gunung Kidul Village. Particularly, the Pindul Cave is now known as a very popular cave tubing site. The local Karang Taruna or Youth Organization of Bejiharjo founded the cave as a cool tourist destination. The cave, and connecting underground river, used to be a place where local farmers would bathe their livestock. Eventually,  after discussing with the locals they decided to make Pindul Cave a tourist attraction.

Within the first year of opening up the cave, the Youth Group was able to gain about $5,000,00 in profit. In time, seeing the crowds coming in to experience the cave, the local Womens group also started to see an opportunity. To begin with they started to sell  snacks, drinks and other items travellers might need or want. Eventually the opportunities became bigger and locals started opening up homestays and renting transportation.

Its reported that in the year 2017, the Pindul Cave initiative was able to profit about Rp 2 billion!

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Desa Wisata and CBT

From the example above, it seems like Desa Wisata would be the perfect to ignite an entrepreneurial spirit within the locals of a community or village. However, there are also occasions where Desa Wisata concepts are abandoned due to there not being any tourist visiting the said destination.

Furthermore, another reason Desa Wisata concepts sometimes fail is simply because the locals do not know how to market their village, and to who. Others simply cannot keep up with the highly optimistic demand of the government.

In essence, community development and training is a huge factor in the success of these Desa Wisata. Because of this, locals of the community need to understand the many things can happen when welcoming tourists to village

That being said, Desa Wisata can be a very easy way that locals can takes control of their villages’ resources. According to the Head of Team for Acceleration of Rural and Urban Tourism Development, an easy way to start would be if a village opens a selfie site. In essence, tourist can take a picture and then post it on their social media with a geotag. Its a simple way to create buzz on social media.

The 3A’s is a catchy and easy-to-remember basic concept when considering developing Desa Wisata:

  • Attraction: A place of interest of natural or cultural value within the village where tourists can visit. As mentioned above, the attraction should be able to be monetized and is unique to the area.
  • Access: The village should be easily accesible to the public, including having the supporting infrastructure for tourism activities.
  • Amenities: The village should have supporting infrastructure that fulfils the hospitality need whilst in the village, such as; parking space, accommodation, public toilets, etc.
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Conclusion

In conclusion, Desa Wisata is a concept that the Indonesian Government started in hopes that villages can become a player in the tourism industry. The concept has a lot of similar strokes with the Community Based Tourism concept. By adapting both concepts, a lot of Indonesian village destinations can become a player in the tourism industry.

However, there still also needs to be a lot of attention paid to community development and hospitality training. Furthermore, understanding who the Desa wants to market towards and whom they want to target can make it easier in the long run.

Would you visit a Desa Wisata in for your next adventure? Don’t hesitate to browse through our Journey Journals to learn more about Community Based tourist destinations all across Indonesia.