Indonesia hopes discount card will woo tourists back

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JAKARTA--Tourists are keeping a safe distance from Indonesia's trouble-plagued shores, but the government is hoping a new discount card will draw them back.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Marzuki Usman says the Visit Indonesia Program (VIP) Welcome Card will be valid at more than 250 hotels, food and beverage outlets, tourist sites and sports locations nationwide.

Discounts runs to as high as 20% for food and beverages in participating restaurants and up to 75% for hotel room rates. Cards will be sold to Indonesians and foreign residents of the country for $35, and $75 to foreign tourists.

"I am grateful to the Indonesian tourism industry as they always create innovations not only to help themselves, but also the government and the country," Mr. Usman says.

VIP Welcome's CEO Chris Green says the initiative differs from discount cards launched by the private sector because it is created for individuals and covers a wider scope of products and services.

The program is also a departure from previous tourism ad campaigns, including last year's Let's Go Indonesia.

"It is a very specific program that actually sells products and its more of a long-term program. Let's Go Indonesia was merely to let people know that we were still around and the other programs were to advertise what we have done," Mr. Green says.

The cards will be sold at Matahari department stores at 35 locations in major Indonesian cities and also through tourist board offices and travel agents overseas.

The country's once flourishing tourism industry has suffered huge losses in the wake of President Suharto's resignation, the terrible May riots and sectarian and ethnic unrest in pockets of the country. Only the famed tourist resort of Bali, untouched by the violence, has escaped the drop-off in visitor arrivals.

Copyright May 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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