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How is The Yogyakarta Acting Mayor Sumadi’s Scheme to be Able to Attract 7 Million Tourists During The Covid-19 Pandemic In 2022? Watch The Editor’s Live Interview Below

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YOGYAKARTA – Sumadi has served the Yogyakarta City as a mayor since May 22 this year, when he was officially appointed by the Governor of The Special Region of Yogyakarta Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X. And as an official who is given the responsibility to lead the city, he has several strategies that are set to bring new changes.

In a talk with The Editor on Friday (18/11), Sumadi said that the Covid-19 pandemic surprisingly didn’t harm the tourism industry of Yogyakarta City so far this year. In fact, the target of 2 million tourists has been surpassed as the data shows there are already 7 million people who come to the city to travel.

He also said that the city government warmly welcomes the critics from the observers who state that the development of the city pays less attention to the aspects of local culture. What else did he talk about? How does he push the tourism industry to still alive and be claimed stay strong during the hard time of the pandemic?

You may want to stay on this page and keep scrolling to get the answer.

The Editor: What is your vision and mission in developing Yogya’s economy?

Sumadi: As an acting mayor, my vision is to continue the vision that is written in the Yogyakarta City long term development plan document. It says that the vision is to lead the city of Yogyakarta to be a city that is comfortable to live in and a service center that has strong competitiveness for community empowerment based on privileged values.

From the vision, we have the missions, the entrances. First, strengthening the people’s economy and community empowerment. Second, strengthening the morals, ethics, and culture of the people of Yogyakarta City. Third, strengthening environmental governance and sustainability. Fourth, improving the quality of education, health, and socio-culture.


The Editor: In the other words, eventhough Yogyakarta is an education city with a high number of tourists coming every day, its culture is still placed on the top?

Sumadi: Yes, it is also a foundation for other things, for the rest.


The Editor: Then, what is your vision and mission in developing the tourism industry of the city?

Sumadi: In developing the tourism industry, we can’t walk away from how we strengthen the people’s economy and community empowerment. As we all know, the goal of this industry is to attract tourists to come, to enjoy the city, to shop, etc. It iself refers to the vision in the first place. Then we have several things about it, that is how we empower the city and attract as many tourists as possible and predict how long they will stay within the city.


The Editor: For the third question, how many tourists who travel to Yogyakarta City so far this year?

Sumadi: With the pandemic has run for 2 or 3 years, we originally only targetted 2 million tourists coming this year. But the data shows that the total of the arriving tourists per the September 1st is 5.1 million, which means almost 2.5 times more than predicted. We are optimistic that we will welcome 7 miliion tourists in total by the end of this year.


The Editor: And why could it happen?

Sumadi: My guess is because there are many events to enjoy here. I asked the PHRI (Indonesian hotel and restaurant association), the current occupancy from October–December is always full, the average is above 80 percent. Not only in Yogya, there are also many events held in the neighboring regions–such as in the south region of Central Java, with many of its visitors staying in Yogya for the night. Therefore, I am optimistic that our tourists can exceed 2 to 3 times the target. Meanwhile, for the length of the stay, the new data shows that there is an upgrade, from 1.6 day to 1.7 day.


The Editor: What is the meaning of 1.7 day?

Sumadi: It means, if the tourists previously only stayed for 1 day and a bit more (hours) in the city, now they stay a bit longer than that. We have strategies to make it happen, that is making several interesting events that will attract more tourists to come and stay longer. And the events must have their own special aspects.


The Editor: Is there any new facility that boosts the tourism industry in Yogya, one that could be known by the public?

Sumadi: About a new facility, here’s the thing, everytime people come to Yogya, they must feel the need to visit Malioboro. Moreover, Malioboro is now being pushed to be one of the intangible cultural heritages from Indonesia. We want Malioboro not only as a focus, but also as an alternative choice for tourists. The branding is still Malioboro, but the activities are actually placed in the wings of Malioboro.

The Yogyakarta Acting Mayor Sumadi. (Photo: Valenthina Br Tarigan/THE EDITOR)

For example, when we celebrated the anniversary of the city (Oct 7), we celebrated it for a whole week. On Oct 9, we made an event called The Malioboro Coffee Night. Even though it has ‘Malioboro’ in its name, it actually wasn’t held on the said street, but in Sudirman Street that is located in the east wing of Malioboro. By still putting the ‘Malioboro’ in the brand, the event successfully attracted 10 thousand tourists a night. We want to prepare events not only in Malioboro, but also in its surrounding so the tourists can go there as an alternative.

We are currently building a reservoir in the south so that the community is not only concentrated in Malioboro because they can go to the south to spend their free time. It is built by the local government. Because we have privileges, this reservoir is built by the city government and the provincial government for privileges. There, apart from tourism, we will also hold several cultural attractions.


The Editor: What is the easiest way for travelers, both from within and outside the country, to come and enjoy Yogya?

Sumadi: If they come from abroad or outside the region/city with airplane access, they should land at Jogja International Airport in Kulon Progo. The first access is via the airport train, then get off at Tugu Station. We also have Damri, which can stop at the destination shuttle. Internally, for tourists who don’t bring a vehicle, there is Transjogja which connects almost around Yogyakarta at a very low cost. You only need to pay Rp3,500 to enjoy the city to the fullest. There I could say that the means of transportation are sufficient and allow it to be accessed by all parties.

Also, for the south region of Central Java, from Kutoarjo to Purwokerto, there’s Blue Pramek that could reach Solo.


The Editor: How big is the current Malioboro concept to encourage economic growth and the tourism industry?

Sumadi: As we all know, Malioboro is now an icon, which I think has an exceptional contribution. Besides being a special place for tourists to visit, it is also a place for our MSME communities to do their part in contributing to economic growth. They sell foods, souvenirs, etc. The ending is how we can prosper the people of Yogyakarta City.

During the pandemic, our friends in other areas such as Bali, as they just depended on tourism, during the pandemic, visits decreased due to restrictions on health protocols, their growth dropped very low and was almost minus. But precisely in the city of Yogyakarta, with the pandemic, our economy grew plus, although not as high as before, it could grow 4 percent, because tourism still exists and MSMEs are still running.

This is supported by, perhaps, the branding of the city which is well known, especially to the Indonesian people. People say that the city of Yogyakarta is… something like wahhh. I always tell my colleagues this kind of narration, that every corner of the city of Yogyakarta is fun, full of memories, romantic, nostalgic. In fact, I often say it this way, if I may make an analogy with the land of Palestine in the scriptures as the promised land, then the city of Yogyakarta is the destined land. Because of what? Because people who have studied and worked here, have come, ate and drank from the land of Yogya, one day they will definitely miss coming to this city. I even did a small survey about it.

As an acting mayor, I was always asked by the Governor to accompany officials who came to Yogya. Data from 2021 shows that there are 276 official institutions visiting the DIY province. If there are 255 working days a year, it means that almost every day someone comes here. Official institutions such as DPRD, regencies, cities, provinces, ministries, non-ministerial institutions, they all come here. I ask, why did you come to Yogja? And they always say that Yogya is fun. So I always say that Yogya is the land of destiny. People who have come, one day he will come again.

Therefore, for us, Yogyakarta tourism makes us very optimistic. Especially when the access to the Jogja-Solo toll road is completed in July 2024. I have told the community that we must give in. From Saturday-Sunday, we give people the opportunity to enjoy the city of Yogya.


The Editor: How do you maintain and preserve the original culture of Yogya while encouraging the economy and tourism at the same time?

Sumadi: First, cultural heritage must be preserved. That’s the most important thing. We have cultural arts groups, so that cultural heritage could be well maintained and passed on to the younger generation. Second, we always make events for it. In fact, I asked the DIY government to make an annual event calendar, which not only contains events for the city, but also for the surrounding districts/cities so that the event continues and does not collide, so that people will not be confused. Tourists who will come could take a peek at the annual event calendar and go to what they are interested in. We even synergize with district/city friends throughout DIY, with Kadin in charge to facilitate it.

We are also complained by PHRI, because sometimes we reject tourists, but the next day we have none enjoying the city. That’s why we make events so that they are not empty and do not collide. For the cultural aspect, we always develop and preserve it by being activated in almost every sub-districts, there is such a thing named Cultural Information System. The community is registered to the system and will automatically join a cultural group and later get facilitated to develop the culture. For example, there was an agricultural event where we included traditional dance performances for children from the village. Everyone enjoyed it. We combine agriculture with culture.


The Editor: This is the last question, there are many universities in Jogja, but many observers deplore the development of a city that is considered less futuristic like in Europe. What do you think about this criticism?

Sumadi: That view is certainly a booster for us. We do realize that Yogyakarta is not a big city, and we have several areas that we really need to preserve. For example, areas within the Yogyakarta Palace, in Puro Pakalaman, in the cultural heritage area in Kotagede–the buildings of Ancient Mataram, there is one in Kota Baru–Indische, Ketandan Chinatown on Jalan Malioboro. It is undeniable from the current developments, the terms are growing buildings, but we have regulations regarding cultural heritage. They may build it, but the characteristics of Yogyakarta and its strategic areas must be maintained.

For example, in Kota Baru, if they want to rehabilitate or build something, the Indische character must still be shown. It shouldn’t have ‘other buildings’. May it be the facade or something else that gives it Indische characteristics. For example in Kota Gede, it’s Java, so there must be characters like Joglo or others.

We are trying to, on the one hand, we have this vision–how to prosper the people of Yogyakarta City, we must raise all of that together, both in the fields of health, education, tourism–we must continue to develop it, but we must still base it on the cultural aspect.


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