Pandemic is an opportunity to upskill Indonesia’s informal tourism workers

Skills and particularly digital ones have been highlighted as significant in helping the Indonesian tourism sector return to prosperity following the pandemic.

As has been well-documented, the economies of such locations as Bali and Yogyakarta have been severely impacted by lockdowns and the lack of international travel.

The Australia-Indonesia Centre hosted a virtual discussion between two of its researchers, an Indonesian finance ministry representative and an executive from online travel giant Traveloka.

According to Traveloka vice-president of public policy, government relations and corporate social responsibility, Widyasari Listyowulan, additional skills for tourism workers, such as safety protocols, would be crucial to ensure a COVID-safe environment.

COVID safety

Ms Widyasari talked of the importance of training to ensure COVID safety in hotels and restaurants.

“We want to make sure that the certification provided by the government, CHSE (Clean, Health, Safety, Environment) is implemented strategically,” she said, also noting that health had to be “the number one priority”.

“You can travel, you can enjoy your time, but you have to be healthy,” Ms Widyasari said.

“Because this is not only for you, but all of the tourism ecosystem.”

Dr Ya-Yen Sun said digital training for female tourism business operators was “really important”.

“In Indonesia, a lot of tourism businesses are run by female entrepreneurs and they operate small or micro-scale businesses that are vital for their families,” she said.

“We also find that some of them are lacking the digital skills that are required in this current environment.”

Dr Ya-Yen said this meant an ability to work comfortably with software as well as with hardware.

“So if there are no tourists around, one thing you can do is keep in contact with your former customers.

“You can contact them via email or e-newsletters and social media platforms.

“But some of these entrepreneurs really struggle and they lose contact with their customers. They were unable to provide them with updated information in terms of vaccinations and hygiene level policies.”

In this current environment, therefore, digital communication is crucial.

“So upskilling digital capability was important,” Dr Ya-Yen said.

Dr Ilmiawan Auwalin said tourism recovery policies needed to be region-specific and a “one-size fits all” policy was unlikely to work.

“It would be better if we looked specifically at each province, what they need and what happened in that province and focusing on its tourism recovery,” he said.

“Each province has a different tourism style; Yogyakarta and Bali are completely different and Lombok is different again.

“So it is very important to ensure the policies fit for each province.”

Dr Ya-Yen talked of the need for cash support for tourism workers.

“We do think the policies put forward by the government are really what the workers need right now. Based on the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s recommendation, they think the cash transfer and salary subsidies are the best support the governments can provide to the affected workers,” she said.

“And the reason for that is because tourism is experiencing large scale job losses at the same time. The people who lost jobs basically have very similar skill sets.”

Government support

Dr Ya-Yen said tourism workers still required government support.

“So tourism workers who lost jobs in the current moment will have great difficulty to find a new position, to find new sources of income,” she said.

“The best way to help them is to provide cash transfer or subsidies on their salary.

“If they are still in a position, but they’re working hours have been reduced, their salary has been reduced. So in that kind of policy, we try to maintain the basic life or welfare of the workers who are directly affected.”

Dr Ilmiawan agreed on the need for cash transfers.

“This year the unemployment rate in the tourism sector is still very high, because tourism is still not opening up yet,” he said.

“So cash transfers will help those workers who lost their jobs to maintain their daily needs.

“And it will be very important to make sure that they will survive during this difficult time.”

Dr Futu Faturay said cash transfers had been a significant source of support for those working in so-called ‘informal sectors’.

“We know that informal sectors were hit by COVID-19 because of restrictions on the movement of people, and then they cannot sell their products or work for example, in the tourism sector,” he said.

Demand for ‘staycations’

Ms Widyasari Listyowulan said there had been some tourism revival in the form of ‘staycations’ and growing confidence that because of the availability of vaccinations, people were ready to start travelling.

“Apparently lots of young people prefer to work not only at home, but perhaps in hotels, because there they can balance their life,” she said.

“And that’s why I think the staycation is actually increasing. Also the car or the land transportation has been increasing as well.

“We see lots of people travelling, using land surfaces other than flight. Nevertheless, after the number of people who got vaccinated increased, then we saw the trend of people start mobilising from one place to another.”

Digital Communications Coordinator
The Australia-Indonesia Centre