How your summer holiday reviews can support economic development

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How your summer holiday reviews can support economic development Tourist enjoying the sunrise in Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Indonesian tourism is making a dramatic comeback. Foreign tourist arrivals to the country jumped 500 percent from May 2021 to May 2022, boosted by the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions and the removal of visa requirements for tourists from select countries.

To help pave the way for recovery, Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy and the World Bank launched an innovative digital partnership with Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, in April 2021. The initiative, which builds on the World Bank’s global work with Tripadvisor that leveraged content to improve tourism services at the local level, harnesses real-time data from millions of online bookings and reviews to identify emerging tourism trends and demand in Indonesia.

This collaboration is supported by the World Bank’s Indonesia Tourism Development Project which was designed to boost sustainable tourism in six priority destinations – from natural wonders like the world’s largest volcanic crater in Lake Toba to unique cultural assets like the centuries-old Buddhist temples of Borobudur.

The data enables the Ministry of Tourism to gain insights into trends and gaps in tourism service quality and the impact of training on quality as Indonesia tries to diversify its tourism economy and attract visitors to new destinations. Leveraging booking and review data to share insights and trends with local authorities and industry associations can also lead to substantial improvements in the visibility and revenues of local businesses. 

So what does the data say about the government’s priority destinations, and how is it helping?

Understanding demand in greater detail: Tourism arrivals into the country are measured using border entry data, and arrivals to specific destinations are measured by airline data. However, headline figures only tell part of the story.  Tripadvisor’s data goes beyond the big picture to help understand granular trends in specific tourism destinations.

For example, in Lombok, the data showed a 670 percent increase in the number of reviews for trekking and outdoor activities between July 2020 and July 2021 and found that these outdoor activities accounted for a growing share of visitors to the region. In Jogjakarta, shopping emerged as an area of increasing activity. There was a 16 percent increase over a three-month period in tourists returning to popular handicrafts spots like Malioboro Road and Mall Jogja City.

Data like this helps the local private sector understand demand trends and respond accordingly: honing marketing campaigns, developing new products and experiences, scaling up staffing and inventory, and re-opening shuttered businesses at the right time.

ImageMonitoring Service Quality: As Indonesia tries to develop its priority destinations, booking platform data can also provide insights into what is working and what is not.  For example, review data shows that accommodation in the priority destinations scores well above national averages, with an average bubble score  - an overall score taking into account the quality, quantity, and age of individual travelers' ratings and reviews - of 4.5, compared to a national average of 3.9. Eateries in the priority destinations also outperform other destinations, with an average bubble rating of 4.7 compared to the national average of 4.2.

The data also reveals important distinctions between destinations. In some areas, such as North Sumatra, tourists crave high-end, high-quality accommodation that is currently lacking. In each destination, review data can be used to identify market leaders with the highest ratings – from hotels and restaurants to dive schools and trekking outfits - that can serve as models for other operators to emulate.

ImageBoosting Visibility: Perhaps the biggest impact of Tripadvisor’s data is the visibility it gives to local tourism firms. On online platforms, such as Tripadvisor, local providers – hotels, restaurants, tour operators, cultural sites, handicraft shops– become “listed” either when the owner claims and lists the property or when a traveler who visits provides a review. In less developed destinations, many listings are “unclaimed” by the business owners or managers. This means that tourism providers are being reviewed without the knowledge or response of management. Tourism firms that “claim” their listing can provide accurate information on their businesses, such as operating hours, location directions, and contact information – and they can respond to reviews. The firms that claim their listings in turn get more reviews and more visitors.

Through the collaboration, Tripadvisor provided data on all claimed and unclaimed tourism listings in each priority destination. Then, Tripadvisor and the Ministry of Tourism held awareness sessions and webinars for local tourism authorities and businesses to share the data and support firms in claiming and managing the listings. The sessions began in October 2021, and by April 2022 there was double-digit growth in the number of claimed listings and bookings compared to September 2021.

Tourism is back, and big data can help the sector recover and thrive. For more, check out some of the details from Tripadvisor’s data here and the Indonesia Tourism Development Project which supports this work here.


Salman Alibhai

Senior Operations Officer, World Bank

Jessie F. McComb

Senior Private Sector Development Specialist

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