Photo: Indonesian label Uma Privee runway show at Jakarta Modest Fashion Week on Jul 29, 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo supplied by Jakarta Modest Fashion Week

Islamic Lifestyle

Indonesia’s halal travel, modest fashion face uncertainties as creative economy, tourism agencies re-merge


JAKARTA – Indonesia’s Creative Economy Agency (BEKRAF) has been absorbed into the ministry of tourism to form the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s second-term government announced on October 23.

This returns the ministry to its pre-2014 identity before the then first-term President Jokowi separated the Ministry of Tourism and set up statutory body BEKRAF in 2015 to focus on the creative economy.

Stakeholders tell Salaam Gateway they hope the re-merger, and the new minister Wishnutama Kusubiando, will not mean a diluted focus on modest fashion and Muslim-friendly travel at a time when Indonesia is accelerating the development of its Islamic economy.

Sapta Nirwandar, chairperson of consultancy group the Indonesia Halal Lifestyle Center, told Salaam Gateway the move is “logical” from the industry’s perspective as there is a close link between tourism and the creative economy.

“Usually, tourism activities become marketing tools for the creative economy, for example souvenir products and other cultural activities,” said the deputy minister of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy from 2011 to 2014.

He is concerned, however, that there will be no clear and dedicated focus on tourism, especially Muslim-friendly tourism.

“Halal tourism has a very wide scope and is one of the most talked about globally. It needs to be addressed in specific ways and it needs one person to lead it,” said Sapta.

The former minister of tourism, Arief Yahya, failed to achieve Indonesia’s targets for Muslim-friendly tourism, said Sapta.

In January, Riyanto Sofyan, the chairperson of taskforce Team for Accelerated Development of Halal Tourism told Salaam Gateway the country missed its 2018 targets including share of foreign exchange contribution to GDP and number of halal-certified hotels. The number of Muslim visitors to Indonesia reached around 3.2 million in 2018, off-target by 300,000. Overall, foreign tourist arrivals last year topped 15.8 million, which, although 13% higher than 2017, did not meet the 17 million goal.

Last week, Riyanto, who is no longer the chairperson of the taskforce, told Salaam Gateway the new tourism minister should continue the good work started by Arief Yahya, such as the Team, initiatives for halal tourism, the 10 identified priority destinations, and culinary tourism.

“Wishnutama himself comes from the media industry and is well-known also as a branding and marketing specialist,” said the owner of Sofyan Hotels.

Wishnutama Kusubiando was co-founder and CEO of television channel NET that started in 2013. He now overlooks a ministry whose sectors collectively contribute around 14% to GDP, about $79 billion from the creative economy and $62 billion from tourism.

“Wishnutama is expected to take Indonesia to a higher level with regards tourism campaigns, for example, by integrating modest fashion with halal tourism,” said Riyanto.

He further underlines the importance of continuing to market Indonesia’s halal tourism abroad, but warns that even at home, the phrases “halal tourism” and “halal destination” are still misunderstood and treated as “political commodity” as some interpret the terms to relate to Islamisation or Arabisation.

Adding to this, Sapta said the sector could benefit from clear definitions or standards about what constitutes halal travel and tourism.

MODEST FASHION

After he was sworn in as a cabinet minister on October 23, Wishnutama told local reporters that one of his first challenges is to align tourism and the creative sectors.

As part of the creative sector, modest fashion industry players have a clear understanding of challenges they continue to face, and they say their sector needs support from more than just the one ministry.

“There has been doubt that the creative sector will still be nurtured well like before but we do hope it will become better,” Franka Soeria, co-founder of modest fashion solutions provider #Markamarie and consultancy Think Fashion, told Salaam Gateway.

#Markamarie worked with BEKRAF on a project called Modest Fashion Founders Fund (ModestFFFund) that builds capacity for the industry and connects designers and brands to Islamic banks. She hopes this will continue under the new minister, who she believes “can do great things”.

“We’ve already seen his masterpiece in leading NET TV and directing the creative for the Asian Games,” said Franka, referring to Wishnutama’s role as Creative Director for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.

The modest fashion industry needs help from beyond the ministry of tourism and creative economy as the manufacturing and exporting aspects of the business are also important, according to Franka. She is also looking to the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Trade for support.

“I hope that one day Indonesia will have an integrated modest fashion complex where the focus is not only about selling the products but also to provide great production and manufacturing needs, from textiles, threads, accessories, to sewing.”

Franka works closely with many of Indonesia’s modest fashion entrepreneurs and SMEs and she says they need solutions to help them deliver great quality at competitive prices.

“At this moment I feel that Indonesia is still focused on fashion shows,” said Franka.

“Indonesia has lots of talents, maybe thousands of brands already exist. With better access to [production] sources I’m sure they will create better and innovative products so we can compete better on the global scale.”

Anggiasari Mawardi, owner of modest fashion SME Anggia Handmade, told Salaam Gateway the new cabinet has options of good initiatives started by the former government, for example trade expos and new e-commerce platform “Fitting Room” that was launched in June to facilitate the local fashion industry’s value chain. 

Business in the last two years has been sliding, she said, a trend she hopes can be reversed soon.

"Every time I talk with my fellow designers, after we hold exhibitions like Inacraft, for example, in West Java, Makassar, Sumatra, Jakarta, and even in foreign countries, sales have dropped from 1 billion rupiah ($71,333) or hundreds of million rupiah three years ago to only tens of million rupiah,” said Anggiasari.

Franka believes this is where the Ministry of Trade can help.

“We need to have a comprehensive programme for how to boost Indonesian modest fashion products to the world, in a more effective way,” said the organiser of modest fashion weeks in Jakarta, Dubai, Istanbul, and London.

“We need to map which products are suitable for which [markets]. It's not about how much time we spend on promotional activities, it’s about the impact and the right approach.”

(Reporting by Yosi Winosa, Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim [email protected])

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Yosi Winosa