On April 9, 2003, just two days following the circulation of President Megawati Soekarnoputri's decision of March 31st revoking the visa-free facility for citizens of 48 countries, the Jakarta International Hotels Association (JIHA) issued a formal letter critical of the decision.
George Benney, General Manager of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Jakarta and Chairman of the JIHA issued the following statement, quoted below in its entirety:
"The overwhelming reaction of the Hotel industry to the recent Government announcement of the revocation of visa free facilities to 48 countries has been one of shock and dismay. JIHA has participated with other industry organizations in presenting to Government in the past year detailed statistics, identifying the economic loss to the Country should such a policy by implemented. It seems this information has been completely unheeded.
The timing of such an announcement, only one week before the PATA Conference, a vehicle that Indonesia wishes to use to promote itself positively could not have been worse, resulting in confusion and the need for delegates to be reassured that this does not apply to them next week. This negative decision will indeed be a hot subject of discussion during the prestigious event next week.
This is a decision taken seemingly for economic and security reasons, however is based on emotion and flawed logic, and is the nail in the coffin of the tourism industry in Indonesia, already devastated by the impact of the Middle East conflict and the SARS outbreak, not to mention the ongoing concerns over internal security and travelers' safety.
Indonesia needs all the help it can get to bring back overseas visitors to its shores, however this decision simply will send discretionary travelers into the arms of other Asian destinations with visa free policies, and less perception of security risk.
JIHA strongly urges the Government to rethink this decision, and for the sake of the many employees in the tourism industry, whose jobs are in danger, ensure it is delayed indefinitely."
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