Clean toilets, water ‘top priorities’ in improving Indonesia’s tourism

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With Indonesia scoring low in health and hygiene by international tourism standards, the government is focusing on the quality of public toilets and sanitation facilities at tourist hotspots, an official has said.

The Public Works and Housing Ministry’s human settlements director general, Danis Sumadilaga, said on Wednesday that issues regarding hygiene, health, sanitation and clean water at tourist destinations across the country were given “top priority” status during a meeting at the Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Ministry.

Indonesia ranks 40th overall out of 140 countries in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019, improving from 42nd in 2017 and 50th in 2015 in the biennial index. However, it ranks 102nd in health and hygiene.

“We should improve hygiene and health, as well as improve clean water and sanitation. It was identified that hygiene and the condition of toilets remain a great concern in some areas at several tourist destinations,” Danis said, vowing to take the issue seriously. 

“We will work to make them [sanitation facilities] better, especially public toilets. We will also build clean water access,” he said.

The ministry is currently installing clean water systems and waste management facilities at several tourist destinations.

“For example, we are now building a waste incinerator in Labuan Bajo. And we are developing clean water systems in several areas,” said Danis. 

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has expressed hope that the tourism industry would play a greater role, particularly by creating jobs and raking in foreign reserves for Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The government has introduced five “super priority” tourist destinations as its core tourism development program, which includes building infrastructure from roads to energy. The five super priority destinations are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) and Likupang in North Sulawesi.

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Chairwoman Elly Hutabarat of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA), who has been campaigning for a “total facelift” in hygiene to attract more tourists, has voiced concern over the quality of sanitation facilities at tourist destinations on many occasions.

“Hygiene and cleanliness is essential. This is a basic issue but if we fail to attend to it, it could [rebound] on our tourist destinations,” she said in January. “We should learn how to provide international standard sanitation facilities at our tourist destinations.”

Elly expressed her hope that the government would put more effort into hygiene and health at tourist destinations by ensuring that public toilets and restaurants were of international standards. 

“Because I’m sorry to say [that] right now, the cleanliness of many sanitation facilities at tourist destinations in Indonesia has yet to meet international standards,” she said in October last year.

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