COVID-19 Op-ed

COVID-19 crisis in the Javanese Sultanate: When and How can Yogyakarta fully recover?

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Joanda Kevin Yoga
Bachelor of Political Science in International
Relations of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta & Local Engagement
Staff of Jogja SDGs

As stated by Udhi Sudhiyanto, the chief of the Yogyakarta
Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA), at the end of
March, 100% of tourists had canceled their visit to Yogyakarta (The Jakarta
Post, 2020).The situation has worsened since Singapore, the United States,
and China, among the top ten countries contributing the most foreign
tourists, are suffering severe situations. Tourism is the economic backbone
of Yogyakarta. The data from the Yogyakarta Tourism Agency proves that this
sector has consistently contributed 25% to local own-source revenue during
the 2016-2018 period (Dinas Pariwisata DIY, 2019).Despite insufficient
specific data for tourism, in April 2020, 14.055 formal workers and 474
informal workers were laid off in Yogyakarta (Nurhadi, 2020). Many hotels and
restaurants are closed and as many as 60% of employees were being furloughed
(Wawan, 2020). This situation also impacts informal workers who depend on the
tourism sector for their livelihoods, such as andong
drivers and pedicab drivers. “This is the quietest situation in 27
years”, said a pedicab driver, illustrating how the pandemic has hit him
with a passenger shortfall (Khafifah, 2020).Extension of COVID-19 emergency response
The tourism industry in this second popular
Indonesian tourist destination must wait longer to recover after Sri Sultan
Hamengkubuwono X, the King and the Governor of Yogyakarta, decided to prolong
the COVID-19 emergency response status until 30 June 2020. Tourist
destinations and other public places will at least be closed until the end of
June.To respond, Yogyakarta’s administration has decided to extend the
distribution of social assistance until June 2020 (Bhwana, 2020). So far, the
local government has prioritised tourism employees affected by the pandemic
to join Pra Kerja (pre-employment) program initiated by the national
government while it is planned that hotel owners will get tax relief.
Likewise, the government plans to give SMEs deferred installments, tax
relief, and also pre-employment cards for workers (Huda, 2020).Tourism’s slow recovery
During the emergency period, the local
government currently is preparing the ‘new normal’ planned to be implemented
in July 2020 (The Jakarta Post, 2020). However, the current situation still
does not support the plan to recover in such a short time. Why?First, the
Indonesian government is still encouraging people to stay at home and forbids
them to travel. Moreover, the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, indicated
that national tourism will not be re-opened hurriedly as the government needs
to evaluate the situation first (Afifa, 2020).Second, the majority of foreign
countries also seem to be more focused on restoring their national conditions
and ensuring the spread of the virus can be minimized before opening
international entrances. The virus transmission that continuously surges to
this day and travel security that is not yet guaranteed makes people think
twice to travel as well (Mufti, 2020).Third, as the economy will not yet
fully recover until early next year, traveling may not be the majority of
people’s priority. Thus, in the worse scenario, according to the director of
the Center for Reform on Economics (CORE), Mohammda Faisal, tourism will take
the longest time to recover compared to other business sectors (Mufti,
2020).Reflections and
pandemic has led to human rights violations. Freedom of movement, as the key
to supporting tourism industries, has been limited as the government
encourages staying at home and avoiding mass gatherings. Massive lay offs of
workers also indicates that the rights of protection against unemployment
can’t be fulfilled. Unfortunately, it also results in worse well-being and a
health crisis, particularly for tourism industry workers.Here are some
recommendations to quickly restore the situation and human rights.First, the
local government needs to make sure the social assistance is evenly
distributed to affected people, particularly tourism workers, whose standard
of health and well-being are being threatened. Second, both local and
national governments have to give incentives for a longer period to SMEs and
all tourism industry actors, so they can rebuild their business and bring
back their employees as well as re-open jobs for informal workers. Third, to
re-empower local vendors more quickly, both local and national governments
need to rebrand tourism and strongly encourage people to consume local
products.References:Afifa, L.
(2020, May 28). Jokowi Advises Against Premature Opening of Tourism
. Retrieved May 29, 2020, from Tempo:,
P. G. (2020, May 28). Yogyakarta Covid-19 Emergency Extended for 1
Month: Sultan HB X
. Retrieved May 30, 2020, from Tempo:
Pariwisata DIY. (2019, September 2). Statistik Pariwisata DIY 2018.
Retrieved May 30, 2020, from Visiting Jogja:,
M. (2020, April 10). Ini Besaran Bantuan untuk Pelaku UMKM di DI
Yogyakarta yang Terdampak Virus Corona
. Retrieved May 30, 2020,
from Tribun Jogja:,
N. (2020, March 26). Curhat Tukang Becak di Malioboro: 27 Tahun
Mengayuh Becak, Kali Ini Tersepi
. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from
R. R. (2020, April 6). Tourism will take at least a year to recover
from COVID-19 outbreak: Economists
. Retrieved May 29, 2020, from
The Jakarta Post:,
M. (2020, April 6). 14.529 Pekerja DIY Kena PHK dan Dirumahkan
Akibat Wabah Corona
. Retrieved May 30, 2020, from Suara Jogja:
Jakarta Post. (2020, May 24). ‘New normal’ protocols to be applied
in Yogyakarta in July
. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from The Jakarta
Jakarta Post. (2020, March 31). Yogyakarta empty of tourists as
COVID-19 takes toll
. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from The Jakarta
J. H. (2020, April 3). Imbas Corona, Hotel dan Restoran di
Yogyakarta Rumahkan Karyawan
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