Efforts led by Indonesia's Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, to remove the visa-on-arrival facility extended to the nationals of 48 countries is the focus of unified opposition by the leader of three national tourism associations via an open letter published in the Friday, February 21, 2003 edition of the English-language Jakarta Post.
That letter, signed by Mr. Alistair Spears the Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Indonesia Chapter; Mr. George Benney, the Chairman of the Jakarta International Hotels Association (JIHA); and Ms. Meity Robot, the President of the Association of Indonesian Tour Operators Association (ASITA) is quoted in its entirety below:
"We, in the tourism industry, read with some trepidation the recent reporting of the minister of justice's plan to change the visa-on-arrival policy, possibly eliminating the free visa for certain countries, including the U.S.A. and Australia.
Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra hopes that the tourism industry should support his view of the unfairness of certain countries' visa regulations towards Indonesia. We regret that we are unable to support such a decision – based primarily on well understood and shared emotions – which would surely result in serious economic consequences for the hard working people of this country.
Our industry, including the hotel association (JIHA), travel agents (ASITA), and airlines has thoroughly examined this situation, and has concluded from careful research that any change in the current tourist visa policy would lead to a drop in both leisure and business arrivals, possibly as severe as 25 percent, i.e. over one million tourists a year.
At this point in time, such a move would cripple the valuable efforts from both the government and private sector to bring tourists back to Indonesia, especially in Bali, which is still in deep recession.
Our analysis concludes that the biggest loser in the situation would be human resources, since the revenues from tourist arrivals go far beyond the hotel to shops, restaurants, transportation companies and even farmers. Every individual visitor who cancels their planned visit could mean one person unemployed. A downturn of one million tourists (20 percent) means one million unemployed. This is simply unacceptable.
We appeal to Minister Mahendra to take serious note of this and not jeopardize the lives of our people.
We would rather have Australians coming here to keep Bali alive, than to travel to Australia ourselves. We all have our pride, but let's think practically.
Please reconsider this ill-advised action, at least until such a time as tourist arrivals are back on target.
Indonesia must be able to compete actively with other major tourist destinations within the ASEAN region, which are spending millions of dollars – and have free visa policies – to encourage foreign tourism.
There are plenty of other places for travelers to visit, and the people of Indonesia will simply lose their livelihoods to neighboring countries. Now is not the right time to make any changes, especially to the visa-on-arrival policy."
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