It took a year of procrastination, steps forward and steps back to finally grant Australian travellers free visa to Indonesia by the government of President Joko Widodo. Since last week, Australians are now entitled to come to the world’s largest archipelago on a free 30-day visa, a measure which has also been granted to another 78 countries. Indonesia is now ASEAN champion for free visa on arrivals as 169 countries benefit from the presidential decree.
Providing free visa for 169 countries has been done in the hope of boosting total tourist arrivals. The objective is to double the number of foreign visitors from roughly 10 million in 2015 to 20 million by 2019, the year of Indonesia’s presidential elections…
Granting free visa on arrival to Australians is probably the most efficient step to boost those arrivals.”Indonesia’s decision to add Australia to the list of countries visa-free is smart and timely,’ ambassador Paul Grigson told to news agency Fairfax Media. “We expect it to add approximately 3.4 trillion Rupiah (US$218 million) into the economy of Indonesia.”
Australia is Indonesia’s fourth largest source market after Singapore, Malaysia and China PRC, generating in 2015 over 1.03 million arrivals (down by 5.4% from 2014). China last year took over Australia as the third largest inbound market source with a growth of almost 17%.
While Australians will have difficulties to match the incredible growth of the Chinese market, it is likely to take over Malaysia this year and become again the third largest inbound market for Indonesia. Four letters stand behind Australia’s love for its northwestern neighbour: B-A-L-I. The Island of the Gods was visited last year by 0.92 million of Aussies, reaching a market share of 89.3% of all Australian arrivals to Indonesia. This is by far the highest percentage of any large source markets to Indonesia.
On average, Bali generates 50% to 65% of total arrivals by country of origin. Only Singapore is an exception as Bali represents less than 10% of all Singaporean arrivals. This is due to the immediate proximity of Batam and Bintan Islands in the Riau archipelago. Batam alone generated 60% of all Singaporean arrivals to Indonesia last year.
Bali’s overweight in Australian holidaymakers’ choices bears risks for Indonesia. If anything goes wrong in the Island of the Gods – as it has already been the case in the past-, the Australian market can collapse overnight.
Indonesia’s granted free visa to Australian citizens should now be accompanied by a pro-active marketing policy to promote the rest of Indonesia. And this is an urgent task due to Bali’s domination.
The slogan “Indonesia’s beyond Bali”- which has been used for so long- seems to have no effect at all in Australian travellers’ decision. Promotion should be boosted to promote new areas- Maluku or North Sulawesi would be perfect alternatives for Australians looking for a snorkeling/diving holiday; Lombok, Bintan Island would also be able to attract Australian beach-lovers; while East Java (Malang and Mount Bromo) or LNorth Sumatra (Lake Toba) could also be promoted as eco-tourism nature paradises.
Australian holidaymakers in Indonesia seem to show mediocre interest for Indonesia culture. There is certainly opportunities to be seized to promote cuisine and gastronomy or handicraft manufacturing. Then destinations such as Yogyakarta, West Sumatra would certainly seduce some Australian travellers while Jakarta and Bandung could be also twinned in promotion as trendy cosmopolitan destinations. Granting free visa is indeed good for Australians, working new marketing strategies will do even better.