Indonesia’s unicorn Traveloka has ventured beyond Southeast Asia for the first time into Australia, an extremely competitive online travel market.

The move will pit it against a slew of established players with branding, expertise, local knowledge, and marketing dollars, including Booking, Expedia, Trivago, Agoda, Flight Centre, Webjet, and Wotif.

Traveloka’s Australian foray comes with a “co-branding partnership” with Indonesia’s tourism ministry, similar to the one the ministry inked with Grab last year. A source suggests that some form of “national service to the country on the part of Traveloka” might have been involved and would explain Traveloka’s Australian debut. The online travel company could not be reached at press time for comment.

A press statement from Traveloka said, “As a co-branding partner for Wonderful Indonesia [the destination campaign], Traveloka has a mission to support the government to attract 20 million foreign visitors to Indonesia.”

Indonesia’s tourism minister Arief Yahya has been tasked with doubling arrivals from 10 million to 20 million in his five-year term ending this October, along with an expectation of over $20 billion tourism earnings, which would see tourism surpassing the biggest earner, crude palm oil, for the first time.

But last year’s terror attacks in and around Surabaya in May, along with a series of earthquakes in Central Sulawesi in September and Lombok in August, are a setback and have added urgency to achieve the goals.

“The government’s target to attract 20 million foreign tourists will not be achieved if it does not synergize with players in the industry. Together with Traveloka, we hoped this synergy can help our mission, and we will continue to support Traveloka to exist in this new market,” said Edy Wardoyo. Indonesia’s tourism ministry’s deputy of marketing development.

“The Australian market itself is one of the promising tourism markets, where foreign tourist visits from Australia to Indonesia continue to increase year on year. Traveloka’s decision to open in the Australian market is very important to help in facilitating travel access and answer the diverse travel needs of users,” added Wardoyo.

A total of 1.3 million Australian tourists visited Indonesia last year, a figure that is expected to rise by 15 percent to 1.5 million this year, according to Indonesia’s statistics bureau, BPS.

“In general, Australia is a country that has better infrastructure in terms of Internet connection, payment and adoption, so we hope that our digital presence in Australia can further enrich lives of our users by empowering them to discover the world around them by offering a various travel and lifestyle products in one platform,” said Yady Guitana, Traveloka’s head of global partnership.

Australians can now access Traveloka via website or mobile app and book flights, accommodation, flight and hotel packages, airport transfers, attractions and activities, said Guitana.

Indonesia was ranked second after New Zealand as a destination of choice for Australian outbound tourists last year, said Traveloka, citing Statista.com.

Be that as it may, their main destination is still Bali. Efforts to diversify the Australian traveler’s footprints beyond Bali have not made any real imprint.

The partnership could indeed be an objective towards that goal for both the ministry and Traveloka, for whom differentiating the offering and giving Australians exciting new vacation ideas throughout Indonesia or even in Bali itself, is key.

According to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Australians made a total of 11 million international trips in 2017 (latest available figures), an increase of 4.3 percent over 2016. Their top five overseas destinations were New Zealand, Indonesia, the US, the UK and China.

But while the Australian market is robust, with international travel rising faster at 4.1 percent than domestic travel (2.5 percent), according to Webjet.com, Traveloka will have its job cut out for it.

“Major players such as Expedia and Booking.com have grown considerably, through organic growth and takeovers of smaller operators,” said IbisWorld Australia, which provides research of Australian company profiles. “Furthermore, relative newcomers such as Lux Group [through Luxury Escapes] and Airbnb have reported remarkable revenue growth due to their unique service offerings and platforms.”

Photo Credit: Australians just love Bali. Flickr