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.

Using an iPhone4 and Everytrail for website and iPhone app mapping in Bali

As I mentioned in the previous iPhone travel Apps post, one of the iPhone apps I find very useful for Travelfish.org is Everytrail. It allows me to use the phone to track where I am and also to mark waypoints (points of interest) as I go. While it isn’t accurate down to the centimetre and can have a bit of a hissy fit if the phone coverage slips (or as in my case when I forgot to turn 3G back on) it’s generally more than good enough for our purposes. I can then upload this data to OpenStreetMaps (OSM) and use it to improve the accuracy of their maps, which we in turn use in our iPhone travel apps.

We just had a couple of days off on holiday in Ubud up in the hills of Bali and as OSM’s maps were not quite up to scratch, I took a walk around the Monkey Forest Loop adding in the laneways and backroads I wanted. I’ll go back this week to do some other areas that need some work and we’re there again next weekend to do some of the rice paddy walks.

Here’s a before and after screenshot of the area in question.

Before and after screenshot of Ubud mapping

Before and after screenshot of Ubud mapping

As you can see it isn’t a huge difference, but there’s enough laneways and so on added that it will improve the usefulness of the app when people are using this map in our upcoming iPhone App for Bali — and eventually when we swap out the Google Maps for OSM on the main Travelfish.org site.

I walked the map out and the whole thing was 6.5km long and took me 1 hour 44 minutes and 57 seconds to walk out (yes Everytrail remembers everything). I also marked the longitude and latitude for 60 odd properties in the area, though we don’t place that data into the OSM system, keeping it the Travelfish.org database instead. The changes above took just a couple of hours to be reflected into the live OSM map for Ubud – not bad huh!

For reference, compare the OSM maps to Google Maps’ effort.

Google Maps screenshot of portion of Ubud

Google Maps screenshot of portion of Ubud

The Google Map for the Monkey Forest area has all the main streets more or less right but is missing the laneways I’ve just added to OSM and also some of its waypoint are totally wrong: Ibu Oka’s and Mozaic for example are both marked in the completely wrong location (off by kilometres). To be fair these are sourced from other sites (TripAdvisor is this case) so aren’t really Google’s fault, but they do serve to prove the point, there’s no substitute for going there yourself!

How not to make a mobile friendly webpage for your hotel

Making a customised version of your website, tailored specifically for mobile phones is a challenge. This morning I had the misfortune to come across one of the worst I’ve seen — and from people who certainly have the resources to be doing a far better job. Accor Hotels.

How to do it wrong

I wanted a simple bit of information — the telephone number for the Lombok Novotel — so I picked up my iPhone (as I planned to call them from it) and Googled “novotel lombok“.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1

Bingo! Pretty much just what I was looking for. So I clicked on the number 1 result for “Lombok Novotel“. The result however, wasn’t quite what I expected. After being redirected through a couple of domains, I ended up at an advert for an iPhone app.

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 2

The app sounds kind of interesting, but all I wanted was the phone number, so I opted for “No”… thinking I’d get the hotel page for the Novotel on Lombok. But no, instead I got a hotel promotion page for two hotels, one in Berlin and one in Prague.

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 3

As neither Berlin nor Prague are all that close to Lombok in Indonesia this was … unexpected. It seems that the app had totally forgotten what I arrived looking for and I was going to have to start from scratch. So I scrolled down a little and got the search prompt. Given it was a search, I just typed in Lombok.

Exhibit 4

Exhibit 4

Exhibit 4

Fool that I am, I didn’t notice the asterisk next to the “Check-in” field (afterall I didn’t want to check-in, I just wanted a phone number). Likewise I didn’t bother with the other fields. You know where this is going right?

Exhibit 5

Exhibit 5

Exhibit 5

Yup. I had to enter a date of arrival (even though I didn’t have one). So I did.

Exhibit 6

Exhibit 6

Exhibit 6

Fingers crossed!

Exhibit 7

Exhibit 7

Exhibit 7

Finally! This is the hotel whose number I’m looking for. Of course the telephone number isn’t displayed, so I risked a click on the hotel’s name.

Exhibit 8

Exhibit 8

Exhibit 8

Eureka!

So just seven screens from the initial Google page I was able to find the telephone number of the Novotel Hotel on Lombok, which, should you care to know, is (+62) 370 653 333.

To add to the misery, there doesn’t appear to be a way to override the Accor website’s mobile detection, so even though I really wanted to, there was no way for me to access the “traditional” website on my phone.

This is extremely poor usability to round out what was a thoroughly crappy user experience. Accor could and most definitely should be doing far better.

How to do it right

In comparison, if I clicked on the Google page on my laptop I was taken to this page.

Exhibit 9

Exhibit 9

Exhibit 9

And there you go, (a bit blurry I know) the phone number for the Novotel on Lombok. One Click! Fancy that! Google really does work wonders sometimes!