Borobudur Temple at sunrise, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. Photo: iStock
Borobudur Temple at sunrise, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. Photo: iStock

Tourism is a priority of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. He has built a lot of infrastructure for it. He has created a friendly policy toward investors. He has also conducted a friendly policy toward foreign tourists – but he has often forgotten his own people.

Many infrastructure developments do not bring prosperity to local communities. The government needs to powder the rough faces of Indonesian tourism.

Kota Batu, East Java, is a tourist location that is often proudly touted by the government. The city has a million charms and stunning natural scenery, but a tourism policy that doesn’t consider the environmental impacts has resulted in damage there.

In 2005 , there were 111 water sources commonly used by residents in Kota Batu. Between 2012 and 2014, the presence of resorts and hotels abounded in the city, and one by one springs used by citizens vanished, leaving only 58 sources of water by last year, according to

The construction of Kulon Progo Airport in the Special Region of Yogyakarta in order to support the tourist area of Borobudur is also problematic. The construction of the airport violates the spatial plan of the Java-Bali region as specified in a 2012 Presidential Regulation and an earlier provincial regulation, which include no mandate for the construction of airports in coastal Kulon Progo. In fact, the area has been designated as a geological protected zone because it is a tsunami-prone area.

Furthermore, land acquisition for the airport snatched up productive land used by the community for farming. Keep in mind the crops produced by Kulon Progo residents are excellent commodities, such as rice, chili, watermelon, eggplant, and other plants that contribute to the national food supply. Where are the great ideals of the government in realizing food sovereignty for the people when the productive lands of famers are impaired?

Moreover, how can common sense accept the establishment of development projects without environmental-impact analysis? Even the governor of Yogyakarta had no idea that there must be an environmental impact assessment before determining the permit location of such a project, Tempo reported in May 2016.

Understanding local residents’ attitudes toward tourism development is vital for its success and sustainability

Tourism is no longer a prima donna if its development results in disappointment for the people of Indonesia. Understanding local residents’ attitudes toward tourism development is vital for its success and sustainability.

What kind of prima donna is tourism to the villagers of Miliran, Yogyakarta, whose wells have been dry for months since the proliferation of hotels around their area? What kind of prima donna is tourism to Komodo villagers who are left behind and now have difficulty finding fish?

What kind of prima donna is tourism to the students whose bodies were targeted by the boots of security personnel when they voiced their thoughts about the construction of the airport that removed the living space of people in Kulon Progo? What kind of prima donna is tourism to coral reefs, mangrove vegetation, shrimp herds, fish and shellfish that are threatened in the area’s of Bali’s Benoa Bay that are to be reclaimed.

According to a theory of tourism put forward by Washington State University scholars Dogan Gursoy and K W Kendall in 2006, local residents will be happy to participate if they benefit without sacrificing too much. If the benefits are greater than the negative impacts, they will support the development of tourism in their area.

Conversely, if the losses incurred by tourism are perceived to outweigh the benefits because of cultural loss as well as natural damage, they will resist.

Alek K Kurniawan is an independent journalist base on Indonesia. He has studied international law at Andalas University; and regional development at Indef School of Political Economy. He can be contacted via e-mail at

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