Visa Vortex

Late president Suharto’s open-door tourism policy made it easy to enter Indonesia. Since then, under successive governments starting with the administration of Megawati Sukarnoputri, which imposed visa fess, it has become progressively more difficult.

The national government’s move to do away with the seven-day visa on arrival, leaving a sole, more costly but extendable 30-day tourist visa has been greeted by the tourism industry – and indeed tourists themselves – as unwelcome. We share their concern.

The abolition of the week-long entry stamp is ostensibly a political move, and a foolhardy one that does not take the country’s important revenue-earner tourism into proper account. It was aimed at wiping out rampant corruption within the ranks of immigration officials, some of whom had been cooking the books over what type of visas they issued to tourists and keeping differences in fees. That is scandalous.

But so is issuing directives that directly impact Indonesia’s tourism sector, as the now-vanquished seven-day visa seems set to do. The reason is simple: a large number of overseas visitors coming to Bali, for instance, do so for brief periods – Japan is a short-stay market. Many just drop in for a long weekend, particularly from such near neighbours as Singapore and increasingly, with new air services, from Perth and Darwin in Australia.

At US$25, the month-long visa is two and a half times the cost of its deceased relative and in these frugal times of low-cost travel, holidaymakers will simply not pay hundreds of dollars extra in fees. They will go to more financially attractive destinations, of which there are many.

Once again Indonesia makes itself that more uncompetitive, when it already has a barn full of serious issues that dampen tourist arrivals. And just where all those millions of dollars in collected visa fees have gone is anyone’s guess. We are not aware of any accountability, or allocation to schemes or projects.

Let’s just not make anyone welcome any more.

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