JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): Almost 50 times as many foreign tourists visited Indonesia in April compared to the same month last year, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data, showing that the country’s tourism has begun to bounce back.
But observers stress the need to remain vigilant about the recovery process. Hendrie Adjie Kusworo, who heads Gadjah Mada University’s (UGM) doctoral programme in tourism studies, warned stakeholders and domestic tourists to remain vigilant and to support the national tourism recovery.
“The recovery of tourism depends on the governments’ response to Covid-19 across the globe, and most importantly, on our continued efforts to keep the spread of the virus under control,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday (June 3), adding that Indonesia’s response to the pandemic was relatively effective at the moment.
Hendrie said he expected tourism, especially the number of foreign arrivals, to continue to grow slowly but surely, returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Foreign tourist arrivals rose to 111,100 in April, up a whopping 172.27 per cent from 40,800 a month before, BPS reported on Thursday, showing that the sector is in the process of recovering from the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In comparison, Indonesia saw a total of 13.03 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2019. That number plummeted to 2.2 million in 2020 and to a mere 141,211 in 2021.
Indonesian Travel Agents Association (Astindo) chairwoman Pauline Suharno said she expected foreign tourist arrivals to continue to increase in the coming months, considering that more borders had opened and travel rules relaxed.
“We hope that there won’t be any new [Covid-19] variants causing a spike in active cases,” she told the Post on Friday.
The number of foreign tourist visits from the beginning of the year to April was recorded at 185,440, up 350 per cent from the equivalent period in the preceding year.
The government’s decision to allow nationals of more countries to obtain a visa on arrival (VoA) upon landing in the country rather than through a more complicated application in advance, is expected to attract more foreigners to the archipelago.
“Hopefully, the number of foreign tourists will continue to increase because tourism provides a large multiplier effect for the Indonesian economy,” BPS head Margo Yuwono explained in a press briefing on Thursday.
The government has added 12 countries to the list of countries eligible for the VoA, which previously included 60 countries.
Newly included in the list are Russia and Ukraine. With the new additions, citizens from 72 countries will be able to enter Indonesia through nine airports, 11 seaports and four border crossings, as stipulated in a circular from the Immigration Directorate General. The new policy came into effect on May 30.
As for room occupancy at luxury hotels, BPS recorded an average rate of 34.23 per cent across the country, a significant decrease compared to the figure from the previous month, which was 45.15 per cent.
The drop was caused by a decline in government activities during the fasting period, according to Margo.
“Government events taking place at hotels significantly affect [hotel occupancy]. Moreover, the Moto GP event also finished in March,” he said in the same press briefing, pointing out that the occupancy rate in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) had declined from 38.43 per cent to 15.27 per cent.
Muhammad Baiquni, a tourism expert from UGM, said hospitality industry players, especially hotels, needed new business strategies to bounce back from the pandemic, aside from depending on international events to take place in Indonesia.
“Hotel management could consider creating incentives for local businesses to conduct offline meetings and for local tourists to enjoy a staycation at their hotels.
For example, they could include outdoor tours in partnership with hobbyist groups,” he said, noting that there might also be growing demand from people who wanted to stage reunions after more than two years of pandemic restrictions.