Fires and Smoke in Indonesia Blew up the Target of 10 Million Foreign Tourists

Lasting fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Borneo) forests in Indonesia from June to October 2015 caused not only irremediable damage on people health and the destruction of precious fauna, flora and trees- all necessary to the world’s environment balance. Infrastructure, health and economic damage in Indonesia alone were estimated by the Indonesian Presidency at US$32.8 billion while millions of inhabitants were affected to pollution and smog in the entire region.

But not only: It of course had consequences for Indonesia tourism. According to Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, the number of tourist arrivals reached a low point in June as land and forest fires disrupted activities in regions across the archipelago, including Batam, Jambi, Riau, North Sumatra and Central Kalimantan. The eruption of Mount Raung in East Java in July, meanwhile, forced at least five airports to suspend operations.

“Another low point came in November following the eruption of Mount Barujari [a sub-volcano of Mount Rinjani in Lombok], which later disrupted the operation of Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar,” Arief told a press conference at the end of the year.

The temporary closure of airports and the haze had caused lost opportunities to welcome an extra 500,000 to 1 million foreign tourists to the country. In November, total arrivals were indeed down by 29% with a cumulative figure from January to November of 8.8 million foreign travellers. Although, market was due to recover in December – figures have not been published yet- the country is likely to miss the 10-million visitors target by a fraction- most probably by 200,000 to 300,000 visitors.

Indonesia Minister of Tourism remains however optimist for 2016. The free-visa policy which now applied to 174 countries this year as well as the clearance approval for Indonesian territory (CAIT) that aims to attract more yachts and cruises to Indonesian waters are expected to boost total arrivals this year to 12 million. The government is also set to conduct sales missions to countries in the Asia Pacific region, Europe, the Middle East and North America more frequently in 2016.