Yesterday (5/16) was a pretty special day. I visited the Blue Bird transportation company to provide supplies to the drivers while setting the taxi drivers as Wonderful Indonesia Service Ambassador (WISA). This training follows up the Co-branding program between the Ministry of Tourism and Blue Bird where at the time of the signing of the collaboration I was committed to teaching the drivers directly as service ambassadors.

What is service ambassador? In marketing we know the concept of Marketing Value which consists of three elements, i.e. Brand, Service, Process. So far we know what is called brand ambassador. Therefore, in addition to the brand ambassador, I feel we must also have a service ambassador.

With this determination, the Ministry of Tourism now has two ambassadors. First is the Brand Ambassador, i.e. Princess of Tourism, entrepreneur artists who have co-branding, and celebrities that we ask to support our tourism campaigns. Second is the Service Ambassador, the Blue Bird taxi drivers.

Moment of Truth

Why do I set the Blue Bird drivers as WISA? It is none other than because these drivers deal directly with tourists, especially foreign tourists. Therefore, an impression is needed so that tourists get a deep impression (moment of truth), especially about Wonderful Indonesia. This moment of truth will be a memory that will make them willing to return to Indonesia, or repeat guests.

When tourists come, in addition to immigration, they will face drivers driving to the next hotel or destination. Similarly, when tourists will return to the airport or station, taxi drivers become first impressions as well as the last impression which becomes a moment of truth for tourists.

Therefore in the Philippines, for example, the Government ordered taxi drivers: “You have to be very nice and honest to any tourist, otherwise you and the entire country will lose everything.”

Therefore, Blue Bird drivers must represent Indonesian hospitality when welcoming tourists. They must know Indonesian destinations better than anyone. Drivers should be able to become trusted advisors for tourists who are able to recommend and tell stories about interesting destinations in the city.

For example when there is a Calendar of Event in an area. Blue Bird drivers can provide information about the time of its implementation, destinations, culinary, to good attractions

Learn from Black Cab

As I have often said, the fastest way to become the best is to benchmark the world’s best practices. In terms of taxis, the best is of course the Black Cab in London. The London taxi drivers deserve to be called “service ambassadors” for UK tourism.

To be known, if the drivers want to graduate being a Black Cab taxi driver, it takes approximately 3 years to test knowledge. Not only have those, the drivers also had to know 15 thousand roads and 20 thousand destination spots. Black Cab drivers also give storytelling to their passengers.

Uniquely, the majority of Black Cab drivers are not Muslim, but they know well by quickly finding the location of the mosque, or pointing out places that provide halal cuisine. They also know the strategic paths of favorite tourism locations there, and deliver their guests very well. They truly become trusted advisors for passengers including tourists.

I was so impressed, I concluded that tourists who travel to London, are incomplete if they haven’t boarded the Black Cab. To London is not yet valid if tourists haven’t boarded the Black Cab. With the same analogy, we must point out that foreign tourists to Indonesia are not good if they haven’t taken the Blue Bird taxi.

Partner 3 Priority Programs

In the driver’s briefing yesterday, I also asked Blue Bird to become a partner to support the Ministry of Tourism priority programs this year, including Hot Deals, Calendar of Events (CoE) and Digital Destinations.

The Hot Deals program, which has been launched and running, is in Batam (Riau Islands) and Jakarta. Soon I will launch the Hot Deals program in Bali. I ask drivers to recommend hotels that have worked together to provide discount packages and promos.

Likewise with the Calendar of Events (CoE), we have around 3000 event events in all cities and regions which we have curated to 110 CoE. We can call it Jember Fashion Carnival, Bali Arts Festival, or Tour De Singkarak. I want the drivers to be able to talk about tourism events that are taking place in their area.

2018 has become one of the most important years for the Indonesian tourism industry. This year we are hosting the 2018 Asian Games international event in Jakarta and Palembang in August and the IMF and World Bank (IMF-WB) Annual Meeting in Bali next October, which will be attended by thousands of foreign tourists. I made it clear to the drivers to show athletes and delegates special Indonesian hospitality.

We also have a program of 100 digital destinations throughout the province, where the target market is a millennial generation that is narcissistic and exists on social media. The same typical consumer is targeted by Blue Bird. I ask Blue Bird to help promote this new instagramable destination in their respective cities. Millennial generation is a future customer. Whoever wins the future wins the present.

Digital Apps

To be able to do it all, of course the drivers must be properly trained how to provide a complete service and can become a trusted advisor for tourists. They must also be equipped with knowledge of destinations, CoE, and other Ministry of Tourism priority programs.

If to become a service ambassador, a Black Cab driver must pass a competency test of up to 3 years, I say for Blue Bird drivers there is no need for that long. Why? It’s because memorizing thousands of roads and destinations can now be done by technology, no need to bother and dizzy.

Therefore the Ministry of Tourism and Blue Bird will collaborate to develop applications that make it easy for drivers to get a variety of information for these passengers and tourists easily and quickly. The application that I will name “WISA” will later be useful for drivers to make it easier to promote tourism to passengers.

The WISA application will later contain content about all information related to travel. It starts from restaurants, hotels, mosques, history, and others. This application can later be installed on the dashboard that will provide information. For example, what are the culinary top in Surabaya, then the hotel that is being promo in Bandung, or the top 10 leading destinations in Bali. Later there will also be information regarding what top 100 CoE events are taking place or will take place that month.

In essence, taxi drivers do not need to know so much knowledge about so many places. But it’s more sharpening skills how to use the application to search for places that are so many. After the briefing I gave yesterday, the Ministry of Tourism-Blue Bird team will follow up with more in-depth training on using the WISA application for drivers.

They will also be equipped with the ability to do storytelling. Until the driver does not need to memorize the entire intersection or travel, they simply use the application. This makes it easier for the driver to work as Wonderful Indonesia’s service ambassador.

Finally, this is the beautiful form of Indonesia Incorporated between the government and the private sector in promoting tourism. We must continue to synergize and collaborate in realizing our big target next year, reaching 20 million foreign tourists!


Dr. Ir. Arief Yahya, M.Sc.