The Government has set itself a target of 5 million foreign visitors for 2004 expected to leave US$ 5 billion in much-needed foreign exchange in their wake. While official figures for 2003 are not yet available, it is widely expected that totals will fall short of the downwardly revised target of 4.6 million visitors, totaling in the end at around only 4.4 million visitors.
Speaking at a year-end conference, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. I Gede Ardika, announced the tourism targets for the coming year calling on all components of the government and industry to work together in achieving these goals. The Minister underlined that there were three variables of performance for measuring national tourism in the year ahead, namely total foreign visitors, average expenditure levels by those visitors, and the average length of stay while in the Country.
The Challenges Ahead
Minister Ardika said that tourism plays a significant role in the Indonesian economy, supplying 30% of development funds. While tourism was badly hurt by the terrorist bombing attack of October 2002 in Bali, the Minister suggested that the resulting sudden drop in business managed to remind everyone of the fundamental role played by tourism in producing foreign exchange and employment in both the formal and non-formal sectors of the economy.
The Minister said that he felt the first direct Presidential elections set for 2004 should not have a significant negative impact on tourism. Mr. Ardika said he was optimistic that the Country continues to improve in its ability to handle the democratic process.
Speaking on the controversial issue of the removal of the visa-free facility currently enjoyed by the nationals of 48 countries, Minister Ardika said that, if handled properly, this should not reduce the desire of foreigners to visit Indonesia. The Minister added that on the visa issue what was sorely needed was a degree of certainty on the number of countries to be affected by any change in the visa policy, the actual amount to be charged, and how the payment would be handled.
Mr. Ardika's Ministry has submitted a list of 21 tourism producing countries that he feels should be added to the 11 nations currently proposed to retain the visa-free facility. If that recommendation is accepted, a total of 32 countries would be eligible for stays without any charge being levied at the Nation's gateways.
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