Interview with Indonesian ambassador to Australia, His Excellency NadjibRiphatKesoema.
Shortly after having dinner, we sat face to face in the residence of Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, Canberra.
His Excellency started the evening’s conversation with a sentence that startled me. “We are located geographically close, but very different in so many ways.” This is in regards to the standing of Indonesia and Australia.
Such vast differences led to a roller-coaster relationship between these two countries; filled with many challenges and obstacles since a long time ago. “Although we are geographically close, we don’t really know each other,” His Excellency Nadjib stated. “This then led to hesitation, reluctance, and even suspicion between one another. This fact makes diplomatic duties more difficult compared to in other developed countries. “We must address this challenge tactfully, and of course, with diplomatic flexibility.” His Excellency Nadjib added.
Getting two different countries to know each other and develop harmonious relationship as neighbors is the next homework to do. The tourism sector is obviously one of the most popular tools to convene this endeavor.
His Excellency Nadjib is quite concerned about the fact that Bali is somewhat overshadowing other tourism destinations in Indonesia and how Australians (and perhaps even the rest of the world) knows only that Indonesia is just Bali. How is it possible to discover a neighboring country’s characteristics more accurately if all they know is Bali? “We’ve started to maximize efforts to introduce and promote other tourist destinations and other faces of Indonesia aside from Bali,” His Excellency added. We constantly mention Beyond Indonesia in tourism promotional programs in Australia.
However, this effort has not been without obstacle. The first and most classic obstacle is our limited budget or funds to carry out the program. “Due to this limitation, we have to implement a priority scale. At this, the main priority of allocation is to bolster the economy and commerce sectors. The tourism sector comes second in the line of priorities. We’ve implemented this by considering that the commerce sector will surely have a greater impact on a larger scale compared to the tourism sector,” His Excellency Nadjib explained.
The second obstacle is more of an internal factor. “Truthfully, we can’t blame the tourists for setting Bali as their favorite destination in Indonesia in spite of other destinations. Bali is currently the only ‘accommodative’ destination with its locals being very hospitable towards foreign tourists and its infrastructures that are relatively better compared to other travel destinations in Indonesia.”
According to data, there are more than one million Australian tourists travelling to Bali annually. This is mainly due to Bali’s superior availability and readiness to receive tourists compared to other destinations in Indonesia. According to His Excellency NadjibRiphat“This should concern the government overall, and further implementation on all fronts is necessary. The effort must involve not only the government, but the private sector and the people as well. We even need to involve educational institutions in the effort.”
Regarding the strategy to build up and communicate promotion to the Australian target market, His Excellency Nadjib is executing an explicit, implicit, as well as guerilla-like campaign. His Excellency often organizes visits to campuses, chambers of commerce, as well as more intensely involving Indonesians in Australia.
His Excellency Nadjib has a marvelous track record. In his previous post as Indonesian Ambassador in Belgium, he managed to lobby higher awareness for Indonesia by successfully negotiating that an Indonesian traditional dress be put on to MannekenPis (a famous statue of a child in Brussels) at every 17th of August each year. Other achivements include his success story regarding lobbying and negotiation of illegal logging issue by championing the concept of ‘sustainable forest’. His Excellency Nadjib’s prowess and flexibility in diplomatic negotiation can be readily implemented to all sectors, including tourism, industry, and commerce.
His Excellency Nadjib’s primary mission is not to assimilate these two countries, but to familiarize them with each other and develop more understanding, thus improving the relationships of these two countries.
The effort is expected to make Australian and Indonesia understand each other better and more harmoniously coexist as neighbors. The pleasant and enlightening interview with His Excellency Nadjib was concluded over a nice, warm cup of tea.