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Indonesia's tourism industry is booming, but is Australia missing out?

Posted by On 11:48 PM

Indonesia's tourism industry is booming, but is Australia missing out?

Email Indonesia's tourism industry is booming, but is Australia missing out?

Posted July 27, 2018 13:53:06

People lining up for buying international ticket Photo: Middle class Indonesians have become avid travellers, but they aren't coming to Australia. (Photo: Detik.com) Related Story: WA missing out on a national tourism boom as overseas visitors flee Related Story: Why a powerful Indonesia could influence Australia's future more than China Related Story: Australian-Indonesian ties are key to stability in Asia-Pacific, Yudhoyono says Map: Australia

While Australian tourists continue to flock to Bali, experts have warned Australia's complex visa system is preventing Indonesia's growing middle class from bringing their tourism dollars Down Under.

Key points:

  • More than 9 million Indonesians travelled overseas last year
  • Only 1.1 per cent of those travellers chose to come to Australia
  • Indonesians must pay to apply for a tourist visa, and the process is complex
  • It is often cheaper and easier to visit Japan, South Korea or Hong Kong

When Indonesia began granting visas on arrival to Australian citizens in 2016, the number of tourists visiting Bali increased by more than 16 per centand contributed $145 million to the local economy.

But the new measure was not reciprocal â€" Indonesian citizens still need to pay expensive, no n-refundable visa fees and go through Australia's complicated application process.

The numbers suggest this is turning off potential travellers, with only 1.1 per cent of the more than 9 million Indonesians who travelled overseas last year choosing to visit Australia.

"The paperwork and supporting documents we need to provide are more compared to when I applied for the USA and Schengen (European) visas," said Komang Arianti, a young Indonesian globetrotter.

Ms Arianti did not mind paying $140 for the non-refundable visitor visa application, but she said she would rather go to farther away countries like Japan, South Korea, or Hong Kong, where visa fees and airfares were much cheaper.

Ross Taylor, Chairman of the Perth-based Indonesia Institute, says Australia's regulations do not reflect the Federal Government's desire to build closer ties with Indonesia.

He said the visa barriers were driven by border s ecurity concerns, in response to the threat of terrorism and illegal migrants in Indonesia.

A map showing a breakdown of visitors to Australia from around the region and how much they spent. Photo: A graphic showing a breakdown of visitors to Australia from around the region and how much they spent. (ABC News)

"We know [visa regulations] play an important role, but we believe it is very overdone," Mr Taylor said.

"The mix of keeping our border safe and the need to open up to and work more closely with Indonesia is out of balance."

'Negative' news colours view of Australia

Ms Arianti said travelling to Australia had never really crossed her mind much before she visited , as many young Indonesians view Europe as their Western travel destination of choice.

"What we hear about the Indonesia and Australia relationship is often negative, such as the boat people issue or racism," she said.

"But after I visited Tasmania, it turned out that the Australian people are friendly and very helpful."

A young woman posing with mountain background. Photo: Komang Arianti says it is a shame Australia isn't tapping into Indonesia's growing market of young travellers. (Supplied)

According to Mr Taylor's research, Indonesia's international tourism market is growing rapidly, and the top travel destinations are Indonesia's close neighbours in Southeast Asia followed by C hina, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea.

But Australia is not even on the radar â€" only 100,516 Indonesians came to Australia last year, including business travellers and students.

Ms Arianti, who works as a communication strategist in Jakarta, said it was a shame that Australia was not taking up opportunities to tap into Indonesia's growing market of young travellers.

"Our youngsters are now good at speaking English, very active on Instagram, and culturally we share more things in common than with the Americans," she said.

"But the Australian influence is less compared to the United States, and now South Korea, whereas Australia is closer in terms of location."

Tourism could challenge ignorance, suspicions

A girl wearing bikini walking on a narro   w street in Bali Photo: Indonesia's Bali is a top tourist destination for Australians. (Photo: Detik.com, Fitraya)

Mr Taylor said the Federal Government should reconsider its visitor visa policies.

"The easier visa process and cheaper visa fee for Indonesia will definitely bring more economic benefits to Australia and our security in the future," he said.

"You can't say you want all those things as part of a deeper, seriously more engaged relationship, but then on the other hand you turn around and say to them, 'but we actually don't really want too many of you coming to our country'."

Rich and powerful Indonesia

Indonesia may become one of the most powerful nations in the world in coming decades if its economy continues to grow â€" but how prepared is Australia for this possibility?

Mr Taylor said tourism was the best way to forge a more intimate bilateral relationship, giving Indonesians the chance to see how Australians live and challenging "ignorance, misperceptions and suspicions" about Indonesia.

"It would be a wonderful way to bring hundreds of thousands more Indonesians to Australia, so we start getting to know them better."

The Department of Home Affairs said Australia's fastest-growing tourism markets of China and India went through the same visa process as Indonesia,but said some changes may be on the way.

"The Department is currently taking steps to transform Australia's visa system to make it easier to understand, easier to navigate, and better aligned with Australia's long-term economic and social priorities," a spokesperson said.

Topics: travel-and-tourism, lifestyle-and-leisure , business-economics-and-finance, world-politics, australia, indonesia

Source: Google News Network: Liputan 24 English | Berita 24 English | Warta 24 English | Netizen 24 Indonesia

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