Indonesia to offer visa free entry for Australia, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea

TTGAsia has the scoop that “sometime” in 2015, Indonesia is to offer tourist visa free entry for tourists from Australia, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

While there are lots of details still to be announced (and I assume to be negotiated), this is quite a big deal.

“Part of the Ministry of Tourism’s quick-win programmes to boost arrivals to Indonesia and achieve 20 million arrivals by 2019, tourism minister Arief Yahya is expecting 500,000 arrivals from the five target markets alone as a result of the visa-free facility.”

According to Bali Discovery, in 2013, Bali arrivals were around 750,000 Australians, 360,000 Chinese, 190,000 Japanese, 70,000 Russia and 120,000 South Koreans to Bali, so even taking into account that the Bali Discovery numbers are just for Bali, the Tourism Minister is either expecting a boatload of Australians to take advantage of the new conditions, or some pretty staggering increases from some of the other markets.

Regardless of the actual tourism increases, this is a great first step in the right direction for Indonesian tourism.

The key questions are of course, how long will the allowed stay be (currently 30 days for a visa on arrival), will multiple stays be allowed (visa on arrivals can be used back to back) and when will it be expanded to other countries?

The second step should be the creation of a longer-stay tourism visa — ideally in two flavours of 90 days and 180 days. There could each attract a modest fee — say $30 and $50 respectively.

It won’t be until a longer stay tourist visa is available that Indonesia will go anywhere close to sustainably realising the target of 20 million arrivals. The current month visa on arrival allows one to cover the highlights of say Java, Bali and Lombok at a moderate pace, but realistically for tourists to explore other regions — say Sumatra, Sulawesi, Flores or Sumbawa — one or two months simply is not sufficient.

These longer stay travellers will see more tourist rupiah being deposited into the hands of small scale, family-run businesses across the archipelago — rather than short stay tourists padding the bank balance of the development tycoons who are busy paving over South Bali.

This is a great first step.

And of course these new regulations should be 100% reciprocal. Fat chance of that with the current Australian Government.