Indonesia’s travel trade is seeing strong outbound demand from Russian travellers, but lack of clarity around the reopening of borders to international tourists is impeding efforts to sell the destination.
Asekan Djoyo Dono, director of Asia Collection Tour, said that his company have began accepting bookings from Russia to Bali. “Demand has picked up. We even have groups from Russia to handle in October,” he added.
As well, Pegasus Indonesia Travel has also seen a slight uptick in interest from the Russian market this month. Its president director, Jimmy Saputra, said their partners in Russia had began asking when Bali would reopen.
Jimmy elaborated: “Russian tourists are ready to travel and our wholesaler partner also wants to sell Bali soon. But they are hesitant to put Bali on the list because there is no clarity around when the border will be reopened by the central government.”
In a similar vein, Paul Edmundus Tallo, chairman of the Indonesia Inbound Tour Operators Association, said that most operators are ready to restart, with safety and cleanliness protocols firmly in place, and are awaiting authorities to lift the international travel ban.
He said: “(We need) certainty over when the border is going to reopen because we have to start selling. The government needs to at least provide a clear timeline, so we can start making business plans.”
Bali’s governor announced on July 5 that the destination will be ready to reopen to international travellers from September 11, but at press time, the trade is still waiting for the central government to announce the border reopening dates and policies to start sales.
In the meantime, Paul urged the travel trade to create new tourism products to attract more Russian tourists.
“They are no longer just looking for a beach. Nowadays, Russian travellers want to explore new places. In fact, they are now looking for adventures like an overland trip in Flores, with trekking to Mount Kelimutu,” Paul shared.
Anna Prikhodko, manager of Visit Indonesia Tourism Officer (VITO) Russia, said that Russian tourists are attracted to Indonesia for its nature, friendly locals, historical and culture heritage, as well as lower living costs as compared to the US and Europe.
Although around 80 per cent of Russian tourists who travel to Indonesia opt to visit Bali, according to Prikhodko, they have started looking for other destinations in the archipelago to explore.
“In recent years, Russian tourists have begun to travel to Lombok, Yogyakarta, Flores, North Sumatra, Batam and Bintan,” said Anna.
Asekan agreed, saying he saw demand from Russians wanting to visit Papua increase to eight per cent before the pandemic hit. Besides Papua, Russian tourists had also begun combining Bali with Sumba and Labuan Bajo, Flores on their trip. “They were looking for more quiet and exotic destinations than the crowded Bali,” he added.
Jimmy, however, saw the lack of flight connectivity posing a challenge to boosting traffic from Russia. Currently, only Rossiya Airlines serves a direct flight from Moscow to Bali, although the market was a significant market contributor to the country.
Statistics showed that in 2019, there were 158,943 Russian tourists to Indonesia, an increase of 26.4 per cent year-on-year. However, at the onset of the coronavirus, arrivals for the months of January and February 2020 dropped to 26,869.
He suggested that apart from Bali, the government should work to attract airlines to use different entry points such as Medan.
Jimmy added: “Imagine if tourists were to enter from Medan, then proceed down to the Riau Islands, before going to Java, and finally, Bali. We will have a massive variety of tour packages to offer (along that route), and it’s a greater way to attract Russian tourists.”