The Enduring Legacy of Dutch Colonial Hotels in Indonesia

In Indonesia, several Dutch colonial-era hotels still stand as testament to the country’s rich historical tapestry. Among these, the Savoy Homann Hotel and the Grand Preanger Hotel in Bandung, as well as the Majapahit Hotel in Surabaya, remain operational, serving as elegant reminders of a bygone era. However, not all heritage hotels have been preserved equally. The Tugu Hotel in Yogyakarta, once a bustling establishment, now lies in a state of neglect, prompting efforts for its restoration by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology since 2021.

The story of Tugu Hotel (formerly known as Toegoe) begins with the advent of the railway in Yogyakarta. This development was part of an extension of the Kemijen-Tanggung line, Indonesia’s first railway, constructed by the Nederlandsch Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij (NISM) between 1864 and 1867. The line was further extended to the Vorstenlanden area, including Surakarta and Yogyakarta, and completed in 1873. NISM’s last station in Yogyakarta was Lempuyangan Station, built primarily for transporting agricultural products and offering a faster route from Semarang to Vorstenlanden compared to the poorly maintained roadways of the time.

As the railway line became a vital transportation link, it also opened up opportunities for tourism. In early May 1876, H.L. Odenwalder capitalized on this by opening Logement Toegoe. The lodging provided not only accommodation but also transportation services from Lempuyangan Station to Borobudur Temple in Magelang. However, the establishment did not last long, ceasing operations on November 1, 1878. It took four years before the lodging was revived as the Hotel de Volharding on June 1, 1882. This hotel, offering modern amenities like horse-drawn carriages and quality horses, was highly recommended by local newspapers.

A year later, Hotel de Volharding was renamed Hotel Toegoe, marking the beginning of its enduring legacy. The government’s efforts to expand the railway network continued, and by 1884, the Staatsspoorwegen (SS) had extended the line from Yogyakarta to Cilacap. The connection of Batavia (Jakarta) to Surabaya via Yogyakarta was completed in 1894, significantly boosting travel and tourism in the region.

Hotel Toegoe’s prime location near Yogyakarta Station attracted many visitors, including notable figures like King Rama V of Siam (Thailand), who stayed there in 1896 during his visit to Yogyakarta. Over time, the hotel modernized to compete with new establishments like Hotel Centrum and Hotel Mataram. By 1908, Hotel Toegoe featured electric bells in its rooms, allowing guests to call for service at the touch of a button. In 1912, the hotel introduced Fiat cars for hire, offering convenient transportation for tourists visiting Borobudur Temple.

Despite these efforts, the hotel’s prominence waned in the face of competition from the Grand Hotel de Djokja. By 1917, the management decided to sell Hotel Toegoe to the owners of the Grand Hotel de Djokja, leading to renovations and expansions to accommodate more guests.

Hotel Toegoe also played a significant role during the Indonesian struggle for independence. Following the Proclamation of Independence, the Dutch attempted to reoccupy Indonesia, leading to two military aggressions in 1947 and 1948. During the Second Dutch Military Aggression, the Dutch occupied Yogyakarta, capturing and exiling Indonesian leaders. This action drew the attention of the UN Security Council, prompting negotiations between Indonesia and the Netherlands.

In 1948, the Dutch established the BFO (Federal Consultative Assembly) to manage the United States of Indonesia (RIS). From July 19–22, 1949, Hotel Toegoe hosted the Inter-Indonesia Conference, where Indonesian representatives and the BFO reached agreements to present a united front at the Round Table Conference in The Hague later that year. This conference was crucial in shaping Indonesia’s future as an independent nation.

Today, while some Dutch heritage hotels continue to thrive, others, like the Tugu Hotel, are in need of preservation. Recognizing its historical and cultural significance, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology has initiated plans to restore Tugu Hotel since 2021. These efforts aim to revive the hotel’s former glory, ensuring that it remains a vital link to Indonesia’s colonial past and its journey towards independence.

The legacy of these Dutch colonial hotels is a testament to Indonesia’s rich history, blending colonial influences with the nation’s path to modernity and independence. Through preservation and restoration, these historic establishments can continue to tell their stories for generations to come.