INDONESIA will waive visa requirements for tourists from China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Russia as well as introduce third-country visas next year.
Announcing this following a coordinating ministers' meeting this morning, Indonesia coordinating minister of maritime affairs, Indroyono Susilo, said: "A task force has been set up to make the (government regulation) amendments, with a target to implement this in 2015."
This is a breakthrough for a country that has thus far followed a policy of reciprocity in visa regulations.
Part of the Ministry of Tourism's quick-win programmes to boost arrivals to Indonesia and achieve 20 million arrivals by 2019, tourism minister Arief Yahya is expecting 500,000 arrivals from the five target markets alone as a result of the visa-free facility.
"These five countries are Indonesia's major markets, with big potential to grow…We may lose US$25 per tourist in visa fees, but will receive US$1,200 through their spending," he said. "We will lose US$11.3 million, but gain US$600 million."
Currently, tourists from China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Russia must obtain visas on arrival to enter Indonesia.
On the third-country visa programme, Indroyono said travellers who have gained entry to Singapore and Malaysia will be granted visa-free access to Indonesia.
Arief explained: "We still need to discuss details with the related government departments, but the idea is other country’s customers can also be ours. Longhaul travellers, for example, have come a long way to Singapore or Malaysia, and they also want to visit us while in the neighbourhood.
“But we have made this difficult with our visa requirements. Why don't we let these countries check them and we just welcome them?"
Within South-east Asia alone, Arief sees market potential in Singapore’s 15 million arrivals, Malaysia’s 25 million and Thailand’s 26 million.
However, he also said in future third-country visas could also apply for areas like the US, EU and Australia, which are known for their stringent visa application requirements.