During next week’s Idul Fitri celebration to mark the end of Ramadan, offices and businesses across the country will close.
If you’re not traveling for mudik , the traditional return to one’s hometown, you may want to consider braving the traffic and heading out to some of the more exotic reaches of the archipelago.
Planning a holiday is never simple, and it gets even trickier at this time of year. There is a bit of luck involved in catching a flight and getting decent accommodation during the peak season. After all the time and effort spent arranging transportation and a place to rest your weary body on your dream vacation, you could be forgiven for forgetting the most important thing: fun activities.
“Many people end up [staying] in their hotels during their holiday, as they don’t know where to go and what to do,” said digital entrepreneur Bernardus Sumartok.
As a result, the holiday is lost. After spending so much time and energy preparing for the trip, the vacation itself is nothing much to remember.
An avid traveler himself, Sumartok understands the difficulties of preparing a perfect holiday. “I love to travel and set aside some time to travel whenever I can,” he said.
To prepare for his trips, Sumartok used to visit travel agents in Jakarta. “I visited their offices and received a lot of brochures,” he said. “I’d leave more confused than I was before.”
After choosing his destination, Sumartok would call up to check the exact schedule and availability of tours. Finally, he would return to the travel agency to book and pay for his trip.
“It was just too much hassle,” he said.
Not to mention the dissatisfaction he sometimes felt during the actual trip if it didn’t meet his expectations. That’s why he decided to start his own online travel agency, Flamingo.
“Flamingos are sexy, just as Indonesia is exotic,” he said.
The travel agency, which opened in July, focuses on special-interest travel within the country to accommodate the rising number of domestic tourists.
“The Central Statistics Bureau [BPS] revealed that there were 123 million domestic travelers in Indonesia last year,” Sumartok said. “This is quite a high number.”
The high number of domestic travelers has led to an increase in the number of travel agents. “According to the Association of Travel Agents in Indonesia [Asita], there are currently 30,000 travel agents in the country,” Sumartok said. “Yet few of them allow online booking and transactions.”
According to the BPS, “Indonesia has over 55 million Internet users,” he said. “And 62 percent of them surf the Internet for entertainment purposes or to find information related to their hobbies.”
The Flamingo website is clean and easy to navigate. At the center is a slideshow of the company’s top offerings.
Among the highlights are sailing trips around Komodo Island in East Nusa Tenggara, diving trips in Papua’s Raja Ampat and beachcombing excursions in Belitung, off the east coast of Sumatra.
But that’s not all. Visitors can learn about special-interest trips by clicking on the “Discover” button.
Currently, there are 15 special-interest categories on the website, including culinary, culture, fishing and photography.
Flamingo offers trips to 22 destinations in Indonesia. Each destination page boasts beautiful pictures and itineraries that are written like stories.
“I was inspired by travel magazines,” Sumartok said.
Each destination has its own regular travel schedule.
To book a trip, you register your name and e-mail address, fill in the number of people traveling with you and decide on a date you wish to depart and return.
Currently, you can only make your payment via bank transfer.
“But soon we’ll provide online payment features by credit cards,” Sumartok said.
On the trips, Flamingo hires local tour operators as guides.
“We believe local people know the place better than anyone else,” he said. “They are the ones that truly understand the routes, local cuisines and the weather. We believe their knowledge and experience can truly enhance your travels.”
People with questions can contact Flamingo staff using their office number or e-mail address. You can also visit their office in Kemang, South Jakarta, to discuss your plans.
“Being online doesn’t mean we’re lacking the human touch,” Sumartok said. “Our staff will make sure that your every question is answered and every need is met.”
The website is currently available in Indonesian, but an English-language version is planned by the end of the year.
TV presenter and self-described avid traveler Lissabrina Pasla welcomed the launch of the website.
“It’s about time we have online travel agents,” she said.
“Now my friends and I can easily plan and book our travels at anytime and from anywhere.”