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Re-negotiating the future for Indonesian tourism after COVID-19: Sustainability as the New Normal?

Subandi, M.R.; Doughty, K.S.E.; Duim, V.R. van der

Abstract

The COVID-19 virus has brought tourism to its knees across the globe, so too in Indonesia. In the early period of the pandemic, between March and September 2020, the national debate in Indonesia (including the government, tourism businesses and academics) gradually saw the emergence of several competing discourses and narratives focused on short-term recovery of tourism, as well as potential long-term future developments. In this chapter we provide an analysis of the dominant discursive themes and their relation to the broader issue of sustainable tourism. The notion of the ‘New Normal’ clearly emerged as an overarching discourse that framed the debate throughout the period, with the notion of sustainable tourism gradually moving to the foreground as we entered the second half of 2020. Under the heading of the New Normal, three prominent issues prevailed: social distancing, health and hygiene protocols, and ‘quality tourism’. Despite the growing significance of the notion of sustainability in the Indonesian tourism discourse, the interpretations and implementation of the concept itself remains indistinct and limited. As discourses will change as circumstances change, a continued monitoring of the developing discourse and its implementation is needed to assess whether the envisioned sustainability improvements will materialize or remain rhetorical.