India’s visa waiver not enough to draw Indonesians amid destination knowledge gaps

Gateway of India as seen from the Mumbai Harbour

India’s new visa-free policy granted to Indonesian travellers may not immediately translate into greater tourism interest from the market due to gaps in product knowledge, according to Indonesian outbound travel executives interviewed.

Putu Ayu Aristyadewi, group vice president marketing and communications of Smailing Tours & Travel, said that although India is familiar to Indonesians, information about the country as a tourist destination is still minimal, or even confusing.

“Most travellers only know the Taj Mahal. A question they frequently ask is ‘What’s after visiting the Taj Mahal?’” Putu Ayu shared.

Gateway of India as seen from the Mumbai Harbour

What is needed now, she said, is tighter collaboration between the Indian NTO or the embassy in Jakarta and outbound travel companies in Indonesia.

Putu Ayu suggested: “The Indian NTO needs to give product knowledge to agents. They should discuss with us about their products, or better still host fam trips.”

Pauline Suharno, deputy secretary general of the Association of the Airline Ticketing Companies in Indonesia, who is also managing director of Elok Tour, expressed similar sentiments.

“It would help if agents could be educated about what can be done in India, e.g. destinations and attractions, best months to visit, what festivals are there,” she remarked.

Pauline and Putu Ayu recommended that education for agents has to be done consistently rather than occasionally, so that they can keep their products up-to-date.

Putu Ayu explained: “For example, India is currently promoting yoga and pilgrimage tours for Hindus. For pilgrimage tours, which is the best route? Are there any historic Hindu sites to visit? Such information should be (passed on) to agents.”

In addition to product knowledge, Tourism India also needs to bring together agents in Indonesia with DMCs in India, she added.

“We also need to meet local agents in India to take care of our guests. Honestly, our DMC contacts in India are still limited.”

Meanwhile, Edhi Sutadarma, director of Golden Rama Tours and Travel, perceives India as a new destination with huge adventure travel potential, having received several queries from millennials who were seeking adventure travel.

“Millennial travellers are more independent. They look for information, buy tickets and travel on their own. However, some of them come to us looking to buy land tours in India, I think this is for security reason, as travellers are concerned about safety and hygiene in India.”

Indonesia’s huge pool of youth travellers is a potential market segment for India, Edhi said. “If we educate these young travellers, I believe the market will grow. Millennials are looking for new things and India is a new destination (that is interesting to them).

He shared that the visa relaxation presents an opportunity to promote the destination in Indonesia.

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