Editorial – Sense & Sensibility

We heartily applaud the government’s announcement that it plans to provide visas of four months’ duration to tourists, and to increase spending on promoting the nation’s tourism sector.

      The vice president, who made the announcement last week, is a man with his finger firmly on the pulse of the economy and unlike others who have gone before him, Yusuf Kalla has a keen interest in tourism as one of Indonesia’s engines.

      This was clear when he recently urged all tourism-related operators in the country to bandy together and promote Indonesia using Bali as the focus to attract vacationers here.

      The previous administration’s doing away with the free on-arrival visa for tourists was foolish and short-sighted. While it added to the government’s coffers, with tens of millions of dollars flowing in from fees, it generally had a negative impact on the nation’s tourism sector, at a time when it was already in crisis.

      Foreigners complained they were limited to just 30 days’ visit – woefully insufficient time for the many interested in traversing the sprawling nation to experience its myriad tourism jewels.  

      Additionally, there has been scant news on where exactly all those millions in visa fees have gone. If 3.98 million people arrived here last year, according to government figures, and the average tourist visa cost US$25, that adds up to almost $100 million in cash that the public has a right to know about.

      Back then, the blinkered and self-serving government used the nonsensical premise that open-style visas let in “terrorists” and other undesirables to usher in its new and flawed policy. 

      At least now the fog of uncertainty is lifting and once again the country is fittingly welcoming people from around with world with open arms – and that famed Indonesian smile.

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