Sharp rise in tourist numbers to Indonesia

Recent expansion of a free-visa policy and aggressive promotion have proved a boon for Indonesia’s tourist industry, with foreign visitor arrivals in May once more exceeding 900,000, a monthly figure traditionally not reached until the latter months of the year.

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) announced on Friday that total foreign visitors had reached 915,200 in May, topping 900,000 for a third consecutive month.

Of the total number, Australian visitors accounted for 101,857, while those from China amounted to 110,035. The figures increased on both monthly and yearly bases.

The BPS attributed the positive development to the government’s recent decision to introduce free 30-day visas for citizens of dozens of countries, including Australia, in March.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya has previously said the government expects to see the number of Australian visitors increase by around 20 percent this year as a result of the policy.

Data from the Tourism Ministry show that most tourists from the neighboring country entered Indonesia through Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali between January and May, with 411,768 visitors.

Ratna Suranti, deputy assistant to the international tourism marketing strategy division at the Tourism Ministry, said that many international events were held in May that had attracted visitors.

“They included [sports and recreation event] Bali Interhash 2016, which involved around 6,000 global participants and helped trigger the rise in foreign tourist arrivals there,” she said.

“For some Australians, Bali is like a second home, one of their favorite places. And with the free-visa policy, it is easier for them to come,” Ratna added.

The ministry’s efforts to promote Indonesia have also born fruit, as reflected in the higher number of Chinese visitors.

The ministry has embarked on several promotional tours to “secondary cities” in China — outside Beijing and Shanghai — for the past few months to attract new tourists.

At the same time, national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has also opened new routes to nine secondary cities in China, namely Chengdu, Chengzhou, Chong Qin, Harbin, Jinan, Kunming, Ningbo, Shenyang and Xian.

In total, Garuda now plies 26 routes to China, including to Beijing and Guangzhou, from Jakarta and Bali, which is, as with Australians, Chinese tourists’ main point of arrival in the archipelago.

Meanwhile, data from the BPS show that the total number of foreign visitors has reached 4.12 million so far this year.

Most of them entered Indonesia through regular entry points, such as Ngurah Rai airport and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, and only a few entered the country overland.

With the May result, the government has realized almost 40 percent of its full-year foreign visitor target. It has set 12 million as the target for 2016, an increase from 10 million visitors last year.

Separately, Jajang Gunawijaya, a tourism observer from the University of Indonesia, called on the government to keep improving the quality of tourism services to ensure repeated visits in the future.

“The government should improve the service of public transportation, fix damaged roads or even upgrade the signal of BTS [base transceiver station] towers at popular tourist destinations.”

Jajang also proposed that the Tourism Ministry coordinate with the Communications and Information Ministry and the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry, adding that regional administration needed also to lend a hand to develop local travel agencies to welcome foreign tourists.