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Tour Operators Sound Caution on Visa Policy

European Operators Warn Change in Visas Will Represent a Set-Back for National Tourism.

(9/8/2003) Leading European tour operators attending TIME 2003 - a national travel mart in Jakarta, have voiced their concern that the planned change in the visa-free-on-arrival policy will further delay recovery in the national tourism sector.

Commenting on the Indonesian language website bisnis.com, Thomas Graf of the Swiss-based travel conglomerate Kuoni said, "The tourism industry and the Swiss people hope that the BVKS facility (visa-free-on-arrival) will remain valid and not be replaced with a paid visa on arrival which would be counterproductive to current efforts for tourism's recovery." Graf went on to explain that Indonesia's image continues to suffer from the after-effects of the Bali bombing, and that the planned visa-fee system would only prolong the current slump in foreign arrivals.

Graf also called on Indonesia to undertake more familiarization trips for tour and travel agents from the Swiss market in order to restore consumer confidence. Looking forward to the Indonesian national elections scheduled to begin in April of 2004, Graf said that if the election process went smoothly and without major incident Indonesia's reputation as a safe destination would be further secured.

Also speaking at TIME 2003 was Susy Sulpice from the French tour operator Voyageurs Du Monde who called the new visa policy a "set back" for Indonesian tourism saying that because of the policy business destined for Indonesia would be diverted to Thailand.