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The Tourism Minister of Indonesia, Arief Yahya, has recently been reflecting on the state of digital marketing and tourism in the East Asian nation. Indonesia is not a traditional economic powerhouse, and certainly not as developed in economic terms as Western nations. But nations such as Indonesia are steadily developing the sort of infrastructure that Western countries take for granted, even if the transition can be somewhat slow and steady at times.

According to Yahya, the number of people seeking Indonesian tourism destinations via the world wide web is still relatively small. Although there are around 300 million people browsing the Internet to search for travel destinations in the Asia-Pacific region, a rather paltry 80,000 of these currently seek Indonesian destinations. Yahya also stated that the Indonesian marketplace compares unfavourably to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia at present, and announced an initiative to address this situation.

Indonesia Promotes E-Tourism

Thus, the concept of E-Tourism is now being strongly promoted in Indonesia, as one of the central means of realising digital marketing, promotion and development for tourism. The Indonesian tourist board, Wonderful Indonesia, has been set the goal of utilising digital means to attract more tourists to the nation. The DMO has been set the target of achieving 20 million foreign tourist arrivals by 2019. Indonesia recorded 9,435,411 foreign tourist arrivals in 2014, which was a 7.2 percent increase from 2013. This significantly surpassed the global tourism growth of 4.7 percent.

The fact that tourism is growing so strongly worldwide in a time which has been associated with economic difficulty underlines the development of tourism and digital marketing in the so-called developing world. As travel becomes more affordable, and average income and wealth increases in these nations, so overseas trips are becoming more feasible for people all over the world.

Additionally, tourists in areas which are traditionally associated with overseas travel, primarily North America and Europe, are looking further afield for more adventurous and exotic trips.

Google Target Developing World

It is this trend which has led Google to invest $1 billion in a fleet of satellites in order to deliver Internet services across the developing world. The Internet giant will be able to provide access for hundreds of millions of people in developing economies who do not currently have web access. Naturally this will provide Google with a vast number of new potential customers. This $1 billion project will compliment Google's existing "Project Loon", which aims to connect parts of the developing world to the web using alternative technology.

The Google project is in-line with the recent efforts of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to embrace developing economies. Zuckerberg recently pointed out that there is still a vast, untapped market of potential Internet users available to companies. Although in the Western world if often seems as if everyone has Internet access, in global terms this is a completely erroneous assumption. In fact, an estimated 2.7 billion people currently have Internet access, which is well under half of the world's population.

But this relationship between the developing world, tourism and technology is not one-way in nature. Of the world’s top 20 favourite long-haul tourist destinations, 14 are in developing countries. Western consumers have long since recognised that there are many unspoilt and beautiful travel spots in the developing world, and these destinations are attracting more wealthy Western tourists on a yearly basis.

Mobile Growth

Meanwhile, although the Digital Tourism Think Tank reports regularly on the development of mobile platforms in the developed world, it is also worth pointing out that this process is also occurring in developing economies. Unesco recently pointed to a "mobile reading revolution" in developing countries after a year-long study found that adults and children are increasingly reading multiple books and stories on their phones.

It is clear that throughout the developing world, mobile Internet services are rapidly being developed. The Guardian reported on technology-based mobile health taking off in developing countries in July, 2014, while The Economist carried a report about mobile money in developing nations just two months later.

According to Pew Research, people throughout the developing world are embracing mobile Internet technology. Cell phones in particular are becoming omnipresent in many developing nations, and while these are not always of the smartphone variety, countries such as Lebanon, Chile, Jordan and China are embracing this technology on a mass scale.

While the Internet is still relatively rare in the developing world, research shows that people in these nations integrate the technology into their lives rapidly once it becomes available. Huge numbers of people in developing economies state that they use the Internet on a daily basis, including roughly half of those polled in Lebanon, Russia and Argentina. At least 20 percent used the Internet daily in 15 of the 24 nations surveyed by Pew.

Digital Marketing Takeaways

Overall, the picture painted by all of these friends is a developing world which potentially presents a huge market for tourism and digital marketing. Although this is still very much in the embryonic stage in many of these nations, the initiative currently taking place in Indonesia illustrates the extent to which these countries are keen to embrace modern digital technology.

Digital marketers should be aware of the bi-directional relationship with tourism in the developing world. In the coming years and decades, developing countries will provide a much larger proportion of the number of overseas tourists worldwide. And by the same token it is already clear that many traditional Western travellers consider developing nations to be extremely attractive tourist destinations. Above all else, this perhaps reflects the diversity, variety and plurality of the contemporary, and still developing, tourism marketplace.

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