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Bali - No Love Loss for VOA

Recent Visit by Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik Rekindles Deep Divisions over Visa on Arrival Policy.

(11/8/2004) The first visit to Bali by Jero Wacik in his capacity as Minister of Culture and Tourism on Friday, October 29, 2004, served to underline the deep difference of opinion that still exists in Bali over the controversial visa on arrival (VOA) policy.

In a dialogue between Minister Wacik, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaluddin, Bali's Governor Dewa Beratha and leading representatives from Bali's tourism industry - local tourism players remained adamant that Presidential Decision Number 103 of 2003, which introduced the visa on arrival fee, be urgently re-evaluated.

In response, Minister Hamid and the Director General of Immigration, Imam Santoso, who also joined the Bali discussions, were firm in the view that while a review of the current policy is possible, it is unreasonable to expect that the VOA would be abolished. According to the officials, changes under consideration in the current policy include extending the maximum visa period from 30 to 60 days and enlarging the list of countries eligible to enjoy the visa facility.

A Share of the Pie?

Local tourism representatives repeated their demand that Bali obtain a share of the estimated US$29.16 million collected since February 1, 2004, under the new visa-for-fee policy.

Playing the Security Card

Arguments presented by Justice Minister Hamid defending the controversial visa plan on security grounds received a less than cordial reception from by Bali's tourism leaders. As reported in the Indonesian-language Bali Post, Chairman of Parasparos - a community based tourism and cultural group and also a leading local hotelier - Made Suryawan, suggested that a degree of ill-rationality colors the Government's security defense of the current visa policy. Suryawan questions the juxtapositioning of security considerations with issues of reciprocity in international immigration handling. Suryawan challenged the Ministers, asking why countries like Holland do not enjoy the VOA facility when the Dutch represent no security threat to Indonesia and, in fact, represent a major source market for tourism.

Better Service at Airports

Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik told his Bali audience that he would open discussion with the Minister for State Owned Enterprises (BUMN) on changing the design of VOA facilities at the Nation's airports and improving services to the traveling public.