Jakarta. Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple and a Unesco World Heritage site, may be located in Magelang, Central Java, but most package tours have the temple listed together with other tourist destinations in Yogyakarta, a nearby province – Prambanan Temple and the famous Malioboro shopping strip, for example – instead of ones in Central Java.
Tour operators see this as a win-win solution since Borobudur is currently one of the Indonesian Tourism Ministry’s four priority destinations – the "4 New Balis" – so both the city and the temple will benefit from being promoted together.
Jamaludin Mawardi, the promotion manager of Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur, Prambanan, and Ratu Boko – a state-owned company in charge of managing the three temple complexes – said Yogyakarta is practically the entrance to Borobudur.
"There are more flights, especially from Bali, coming to Yogyakarta airport than to airports in Semarang or Solo. That’s why more tourists go through Yogyakarta instead of Central Java to Borobudur," Jamaludin told The Jakarta Globe at Bali & Beyond Travel Fair in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Thursday (28/06).
Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto Airport is only 40 kilometers away from Magelang, closer than Semarang’s Ahmad Yani Airport (100 km) and Solo’s Adisumarmo Airport (86 km).
In return, Jamaludin said, given its worldwide fame, Borobudur is the entry point for other tourist destinations in the area.
Marlina Handayani, the head of the information services division at Yogyakarta Tourism Office, said local tour operators have always been promoting Borobudur even before it was listed as a priority destination. Now she hopes the world-famous temple will help promote Yogyakarta’s lesser-known destinations.
"Borobudur is the priority destination but tourists never stop at a single site. They want other destinations. We hope travel agencies can include them in their package tours – not just Borobudur or the Keraton [palaces], but also less popular destinations in Yogyakarta," Marlina said.
She said the number of tourist attractions in Yogyakarta rose by 40 percent in the past year. A total of 67 beaches are now open for public in Gunung Kidul, once a quiet district south of Yogyakarta. In Bantul, another district on the southern coast of Java, there are 12 new tourist sites, including the Mangunan Pine Forest and Watu Goyang.
Yogyakarta has always been a popular destination for local tourists, but Marlina said there’s still work to be done if the city wants to attract more foreign visitors. Last year, more than 4.7 million Indonesians visited Yogyakarta, but there were only around 300,000 overseas tourists.
"This year, we've had around 270,000-285,000 overseas tourists, and the high season is still not over yet," Marlina said.
However, the quoted number refers to visitors staying at starred hotels. The real number is likely higher considering there are backpackers who prefer to stay at Airbnbs, motels and homestays or tourist villages.
Marlina said the city has been trying to attract more foreign tourists by doing more media promotion, participating in local and international travel fairs and organizing "fam trips."
"That's when we invite journalists, travel agents and tour operators to Yogyakarta’s lesser-known destinations so they can spread good news about them. We work together with the Tourism Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and embassies and consulates in Indonesia and abroad," she said.