The fifth Australian Awards Indonesia (AAI) Short Course was completed in August by Griffith Institute for Tourism and 24 Indonesian tourism leaders, that has now resulted in over 125 Indonesians trained in sustainable tourism since 2015.

Dr Sarah_Gardiner_and_Professors_Bill_Carter_Noel_Scott

A/Prof S.Gardiner and Profs. B.Carter, N. Scott

The program (AAI-5) was led by Associate Professor Sarah Gardiner, Director of Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT) working with Professors Bill Carter and Noel Scott from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC).

Tourism is a driver of economic development and job creation and it provides a reason to protect cultures and the environment. In Australia we are seen as a global tourism leader – 10% of Australia’s total exports come from tourism and 9.3 million tourists visited last year which generated $57.3 billion in tourism GDP.

With Indonesian’s contribution to tourism GDP estimated at 15% in 2019, and four of President Widodo’s ‘Ten New Balis’ marked for the east Indonesian region, they are preparing to manage the expected increase in tourists over the coming years. And globally tourism is growing faster than economic growth with global tourism growth 6% while the global economy grew 3.7%.

“The aim of the AAI program is to build capacity for tourism leaders and practitioners who use the knowledge, understandings and skills gained in the program to influence their professional fields and communities back in Indonesia,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.


Skyrail Cairns to Kuranda, image: Skyrail

“Griffith University and USC developed the program that focuses on participatory learning through site visits combined with presentations from leading tourism experts. Each participant then applies this knowledge to deliver a sustainable tourism project in their local community which is implemented over the course of the program.”

“We initially deliver the training in Indonesia – participants then visit Australia and use this learning to further develop their project. We then return to Indonesia where they present the outcomes of their project – and this typically happens over a six-month period.”

“It’s important to highlight the AAI programs are made possible thanks to the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who fund these short courses as a part of Australia’s foreign aid program.”

“There is a lot happening in terms of tourism and hospitality training in Indonesia and Griffith is really well positioned to offer this training from both intellectual and practical perspectives – we have world-class tourism expert academics and we are the number one university in Australia for hospitality and tourism management.”1

“So we are well positioned academically, but also the work of Griffith International Business Development Unit (IBDU) is important to ensure participants are socially and culturally supported and the program is well-organised,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.

“IBDU have developed support systems and have an excellent cultural understanding of our participants’ needs, so I think that is part of why we are very well positioned to deliver a lot of this training for the ‘Ten new Bali’s’ that are happening in Indonesia.”


AAI-5 Delegates with Program Leaders

As a result of Griffith AAI training programs the practitioners from Indonesia are one step closer to achieving better livelihoods from small tourism business and networks that have contributed towards economic development for local communities. The AAI-5 participants came from Western Indonesia (Jakarta, West Java and Yogyakarta), Central Indonesia (NTB, NTT, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, North Sulawesi) and Eastern Indonesia (Maluku, Papua & West Papua), and were a mix of government, industry representatives and small business operators.

“It’s always a bit of a mix and each group is a little bit different as to how many government people and industry and so forth,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.

“Quite a lot of the delegates are looking at handy crafts or developing souvenirs or coffee or food products and selling them to visitors. Or they are looking to develop very small-scale tours into local indigenous communities.”

“One delegate in this course provided human resource training and workshops in Labuan Bajo, Sumba, and he collaborated with two alumni from previous courses. This cross-course networking and collaboration is impressive.”


Quicksilver Reef Pontoon, image: Quicksilver

During the Australian component of the program, delegates visited cultural and environmental attractions in Port Douglas, Cairns, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and Gold Coast, to learn first-hand from experienced operators on their tourism management practices.

“The delegates participated in a site visit out to Quicksilver Pontoon on the reef and they were very impressed, because it’s big-scale tourism operation. It’s very organised in terms of how it operates, so learning from experienced tourism operators is really important for participants and they take these lessons back to Indonesia to build their tourism industry,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.

“We did Cairns Skyrail to Kuranda, and participated in the indigenous experiences at Tjopukai Cultural Park and Mossman Discovery Centre. Delegates then travelled to South-East Queensland and stayed on the Gold Coast to visit leading tourist attractions and study the tourist experience and business operations – they also received presentations from tourism experts.”

“An important element of the program is the indigenous learning. So we do site visits and it provides a good idea how to develop cultural or social tourism products. Cultural tourism is important in terms of understanding how it can work and how the indigenous people can benefit – but not scaling it up too much where it affects their way of life, just enough for people to get insight into the culture.”

“One lady in the program was interested in our beach access, particularly around Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast. It was interesting for her to see how we manage our beaches, and how there is this equitable access for the local community and visitors – this doesn’t exist in her region, but you can see it as a way of creating a more integrated model of tourism where community and tourism cohabitate.”


Tjapukai Cultural Park, Cairns, image: TCP

The delegates nominated their personal tourism projects and they were assisted on business plans to develop sustainability aspects with program leaders and tourism experts. See participant map

“We had one quite large strategic project, a delegate was doing a visitor information centre around a wind farm, which is unusual, but they are trying to turn the wind farm into having a tourism element,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.

“There was another lady that was working on whale-shark tourism and wanted to develop a policy around swimming with whale-sharks in Indonesia. Apparently, it’s very good there and more affordable compared to swimming with them in Australia.”

“They are developing a sustainable policy where the care of the animals is looked after. Her project also looks at the boats that take people out to the whale-sharks and how they can reduce noise, change the motors in the boats so they are more fuel-efficient – change the lighting on the boats so it is more energy efficient and other initiatives.“

“The next step for her is thinking about some management policies so she can manage the operation in a more sustainable way. Seeing some of the environmental management practices that we have out here really helps.”


Banda Neira, Molukkas, Indonesia, image: PonantCruises

A key objective of the program was to assist the development of soft tourism infrastructure in east Indonesia and engaging local leaders for community-led tourism initiatives with links between operators, tourism bodies and local governments.

“Often in Indonesia, it will be community-led and there will be a leader in the region that will be the person that creates that change and makes it happen. And they bring the government together and the different enterprises to make it happen,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.


“Tourism is not just there to impose and impact on those local communities, it’s really about trying to use it as a sustainable tool for community development and economic development in the region.”

“A lot of the infrastructure in Indonesia is funded through investment, but it’s also the soft infrastructure that’s really important. So for example, local governance and networks that can build tourism is going to be really important.”

“The delegates were very interested in the governance of tourism. So who is involved in the decision making process and how we coordinate the tourism industry.”

“They are also interested in our process of development of tourism in terms of consultation with the community and how they get people engaged in tourism.”


Key Island, Indonesia, image: PonantCruises

Australians are beginning to travel to Indonesia on boutique cruise ships departing from Darwin in order to take in all the natural wonders and tropical scenery with over 17,000 islands on offer.

“One of the delegates from Kei Island has boutique cruise ships visiting her village. There are lots of opportunities for communities in Indonesia to develop tourism related to servicing boutique cruise ships and the yachting community – particularly in the northern part of Australia visiting east Indonesian Islands as new tourism destinations,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.

“We had two dive boat projects and diving tourism is a major attractor in Indonesia. One project was aimed at trying to train more divers with the certification to become dive instructors, and the other was around trying to clean up the reef to create more tourism opportunities in dive sites.”

“The projects are all operational businesses, so they already have customers – but it’s about trying to take those businesses to the next level. Not that they intend to be large-scale and producing massive volumes, but even a 25 or 50 percent increase in capacity can have positive implications to communities.”

“So we are not dealing with large volume tourism, but often someone coming in and staying for five nights and doing some dives has a massive economic benefit for that community. I see particularly surf tourism and dive tourism as great niche opportunities for Indonesia.”

“The other one that has come up in quite a few courses is bird watching. So that is another area that is quite popular – it’s a niche market but usually high-value tourists are involved.”

“It’s an opportunity for Indonesia because they have an exotic population of birds. In fact, one of our delegates from a previous course, wrote a book on categorising and describing all of the different birds in East Indonesia – which was a great outcome promoting east Indonesia as a bird watching location.”


Sulawesi Island Indonesia, image: Mynameistravel

In a new initiative developed by Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT), all of the knowledge and case studies from the AAI programs are being compiled into an interactive training guide for tourism in developing countries.

“We have delivered five (AAI) courses now and there are over 125 alumni in east Indonesia that have participated in our program,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.

“So we are developing a network within east Indonesia in terms of the alumni that have been through our programs. While the networks of delegates are quite informal, we are trying to work on a better way to formalise it and connect people.”

“And we are working on a training guide for tourism in developing countries at the moment. Where we are trying to capture all the lessons and how we go about training – it will be a digital interactive guide so people in future courses but also external people can look at it.”

Although tourism in western parts of Indonesia is quite developed such as Bali, Lombok and Yogyakarta, in east Indonesia tourism is still emerging and subsequently, this presents an opportunity to develop new ecological or cultural tourism businesses in the region.

“Yes they have a real opportunity in Indonesia cause they are very much starting from grass-roots tourism, so they have the chance to shape their destiny in terms of where they head with their tourism industry,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.

“Obviously Bali is very developed now, but most of the other destinations in Indonesia are still very much developing destinations. And so they have a real opportunity to think about tourism from an environmental sustainability perspective.”

“A lot of the work that Indonesian people are doing is around community-based tourism. So tourism is really seen in Indonesia as an economic driver and a way to create sustainable livelihoods within those destinations.”

Delegates return to Indonesia with the skills and knowledge to better manage the environment and to implement sustainable business practices as they expand operations, such as monitoring tourist capacities, providing local food options and rubbish collection initiatives.

“With local food economically it’s contributing to the local community and additionally the carbon footprint of that meal is reduced,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.

“Unfortunately in Indonesia they have an issue with rubbish waste and for many of our Indonesian projects one of the big issues is pollution.”

“Maybe 20 percent to one third of our projects on most of the programs are focussed on pollution, and cleaning up the beaches or the ocean is a priority.”

“They really see tourism as a way to build that environmental sustainability. Because if you can have tourists on a beach, you need to make sure the beach doesn’t have plastic all over it.”

“Or if you are going to have divers on a reef, they don’t want to see plastic bags or swimming past them. So it provides a real impetus to create those sustainable outcomes.”

Griffith’s assistance building intellectual capacity in tourism is helping to improve Indonesia’s future development opportunities and ensuring economic expansion from tourism across east Indonesia.

“We are seeing quite large investments in Indonesia, particularly in places like Lombok and in other areas. But I think the challenge is to make sure that investment translates into jobs for Indonesian people and futures for them,” said Associate Professor Gardiner.

“That’s where Griffith University has an opportunity in terms of creating that intellectual capacity to be able to manage that change.”

“And then understanding how tourism operates to make sure that the next generation of leaders is able to cope and make informed decisions about tourism planning around sustainability.”

For more information on Griffith’s sustainable tourism research and short courses, or to discuss the new interactive guide to tourism training for developing countries, please contact Associate Professor Sarah Gardiner.
Feature Image: Jayapura Papua, Indonesia, image: WonderfulIndonesia


1. According to the ShanghaiRanking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2019.


Related Reading:

Business School Research Blog:
‘Sustainable Tourism Indonesia: Australia Awards Short Course Three Completed’

Griffith News:
‘Australia Awards Scholars from Indonesia explore Australia’s top tourism destinations’