Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Indonesia optimistic visa-free policy will boost tourism

The Indonesian tourism ministry has observed that until October 2015, the governments visa-free policy has significantly boosted foreign tourist arrivals from 30 out of the total 47 countries being offered the facility.

The number of tourist arrivals has increased by 16 percent since August, compared to only 2.9 percent during the January-July 2015 period.

The most significant surge was observed from China, with an increase of 24 percent in August, in comparison with the same period last year, I Gde Pitana, the deputy in charge of international tourism marketing development of the tourism ministry, stated recently.

The government is offering visa-free facility to the citizens of 47 countries from October 2015 as the policy was earlier only applicable to 45 countries.

The new policy is intended to boost the number of foreign tourist arrivals, which is expected to reach 20 million by 2019.

As the number of tourists to Indonesia exceeded all expectations in 2014, the government has extended the target from 10 million to 12 million foreign tourists for 2015.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya has expressed optimism that the new target can be achieved by intensely conducting promotional activities to highlight its visa-free facility.

Furthermore, the Indonesian government has planned to extend its visa-free facility to another 45 countries in a bid to increase the number of recipients to 90 this year.

Minister Yahya confirmed that the plan was initially scheduled for implementation next year, but it was expedited following the deregulation launched by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) on September 1.

"The number of countries to receive the new visa-free facility to visit Indonesia is 45, while 45 others have already received it. The signing of a presidential decree to that effect is now still being processed. It is hoped to come into effect by the end of this year," the minister affirmed on Sept. 15, 2015.

The government expects that the facility would increase the number of tourist arrivals by five to 25 percent.

The tourism minister affirmed that the facility was expected to boost the performance of the tourism sector and attract up to 20 million foreign tourists by 2019.

Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Japan, China, and South Korea are among the target markets for Indonesias tourism. The conventional markets include the United States, Germany, and France, while potential markets are India, South Africa, Russia, and some Middle Eastern nations, among others

In a bid to improve its services, the government has increased the number of immigration checkpoints for entry from nine to 14 and 50 exit checkpoints for tourists coming from countries granted visa-free facility for travel to Indonesia.

The 50 exit points comprise 19 airports, 29 seaports, and two land entrances.

The seaport immigration entry points are located in Nongsa Terminal Bahari, Marina Teluk Senimba, Citra Tri Tunas, Bandar Bentan Telani Lagoi, Bandar Seri Udaba Lobam, Tanjung Balai Karimun, Sekupang, Batam Center, and Sri Bintan Pura.

The airport immigration entry points are in Soekarno Hatta in Jakarta; Juanda in Surabaya, East Java province; Ngurah Rai in Denpasar, Bali; Hang Nadim in Batam, Riau Islands; and Kualanamu in Medan, North Sumatra province.

Earlier, foreign tourists from 30 countries, who had availed the visa-free policy, could only enter and exit Indonesia on a limited basis through nine immigration entry points. Now, additional entry points have been opened at five airports and nine seaports.

The governments visa-free policy has been supported by Garuda Indonesia, which is planning to work with some tourism agencies abroad in a bid to boost foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia.

"We will work with tourism agencies abroad and also travel agents as they are good in online sales, which are up to 90 percent," Commercial Director of Garuda Indonesia Handayani stated recently.

She acknowledged that the airline welcomes the governments policy to provide visa-free facility to 47 countries to increase foreign tourist arrivals.

According to Handayani, it is an opportunity for the airline to aggressively promote and establish cooperation with tourism agencies and travel agents abroad.

"We must aggressively promote Indonesias tourism, which is not only limited to Bali or Lombok but also beyond it," she emphasized.

Garuda Indonesia is also cooperating with the local governments, especially in West Java, Bali, Lombok, and Southeast Sulawesi, to promote tourism that could boost the number of passengers.

She revealed that the ratio of inbound passengers who visited Indonesia to the outbound passengers from Indonesia going abroad is 60:40. Handayani also expects a growth in the number of passengers visiting Indonesia.

"I am very happy that we could increase the number of inbound passengers as long as we continue to handle the flow of outbound passengers as Indonesia did not earlier offer free visa policy to that many countries. With the opening of this (visa exemption), we can expect an increase in the flow of inbound passengers," she pointed out.

Handayani stated the airline had set an 85 percent seat occupancy target for overseas flights, especially those arriving from London and Amsterdam. However, she did not reveal the new seat occupancy target and the additional revenue to be earned following the implementation of the new policy. (Antara)

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