Indonesia turns on the visa-free charm for China

THE Indonesian trade is anticipating a surge in the number of Chinese travellers next year when visa requirements are lifted.

As part of the new government’s quick-win programmes to achieve 20 million arrivals by 2019, Indonesia earlier this month announced the exemption of visa requirements for nationals of China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Russia starting January.

Fadli Fahmi Ali, general secretary at the Association of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies Jogjakarta Chapter and director of Werkudara Travel Management Jogjakarta, expects a 40 per cent increase in Chinese visitors in the year ahead as a result of the visa waiver.

“Business from China has been very good in the last two years and China is now among the top five source markets for (Jogjakarta),” he said. “We are investing in human resources by training Mandarin-speaking guides, and as an association we will work together with the private sector for promotions and create Chinese signage.”

Hotels in Indonesia are also leveraging this visa-free move to boost Chinese guest numbers.

Lin Parlina, key account manager, Malaysia-Indonesia-Singapore, Accor, hopes that Chinese visitor figures next year will surpass the 20-23 per cent growth recorded in the last two years. “We’re joining travel marts like (China International Travel Mart) and doing traditional sales calls to wholesalers in China for promotion,” said Lin.

Von Go, general manager of Montigo Resorts Nongsa in Batam, said the resort aims to enter new Chinese markets through its GSAs in China and is also persuading travel agencies to package Batam with Singapore.

“For the people of Shanghai and Beijing, they may think Singapore, being a city, is similar to what they have. Batam offers them something new as it is close to the sea,” he explained.

However, Go feels that Indonesia needs to promote itself more aggressively to the Chinese, a key market for his resort. “Anywhere you go in the world you will see (the campaign) Malaysia, Truly Asia, but this is not the case for Indonesia.”

His sentiments were echoed by Beijing Hongkey International Travel Service’s general manager, Jason Hao, who said his company conducts very little business to Indonesia. “The Chinese, and perhaps the northern Chinese especially, have no real impression of Indonesia as a destination and think it’s not a very Chinese-friendly destination.”

He added: “I personally know Indonesia to be a beautiful country, but price-wise it’s not so value-for-money for the Chinese. A holiday to Phuket will cost the Chinese visitor around RMB4,000 (US$652), Bali RMB6,000, the Maldives about RMB8,000 and Hawaii about RMB9,000. To pay RMB6,000 to go to Bali, travellers would rather go to Hawaii and the Maldives.”

However, Zhong Chun, a representative from Zhang Hua Travel Agency, who currently brings groups into Indonesia at least once every three months, said: “Visa application is always a troublesome factor because there is a lot of paper work involved and the troubling part is the waiting time. Without (the need to apply) visas, it will definitely help us to promote the destination better.”

Additional reporting by Paige Lee Pei Qi

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